The Catholic Church designates November as the Month of the Holy Souls in Purgatory – a time to remember and pray for our deceased friends and loved ones who have not fully atoned for the temporal punishments resulting from their sins. The faithful may gain a plenary (full, whole) indulgence which can be applied to the souls in purgatory, usually during the first week of the month, according to the Vatican. A partial indulgence is granted on any other days of the year.

Here are the changes Pope Francis has made because of COVID-19:

PLENARY INDULGENCE DURING MONTH OF NOVEMBER

Due to the coronavirus pandemic and the need to avoid large groups, the Plenary Indulgence applicable to the deceased by those who visit a cemetery has been extended beyond the normal dates of November 1-8. This year, the indulgence can be obtained by anyone who visits a cemetery, even if only mentally, on any day in November, and devoutly prays for the faithful departed.

PLENARY INDULGENCE FOR FEAST OF ALL SOULS’ DAY

Regarding the Plenary Indulgence attached to All Souls’ Day, this year, it can be obtained not only on the preceding or succeeding Sunday, or on the actual Feast day, but on any other day of the month chosen by each member of the faithful. In this case, the indulgence is obtained by “devoutly visiting a church or an oratory”, along with the recitation of the Our Father and the Creed, and the other requirements associated with a Plenary Indulgence.

THE HOMEBOUND

For anyone who cannot leave their home for various reasons, including Covid restrictions, they too can obtain the Plenary Indulgence by “uniting themselves spiritually to other members of the faithful”. In this case, the condition of being “completely detached from sin” and the intention of completing the other requirements for obtaining a Plenary Indulgence remain. These conditions are Sacramental Confession, reception of Holy Communion and a prayer for the Holy Father’s intentions. The Decree suggests that such prayer take place before an “image of Jesus or the Blessed Virgin Mary”. Among the various prayers that are recommended are “prayers for the deceased, Morning or Evening Prayer from the Office of the Dead, the Rosary, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, meditating on various Gospel passages proposed for the liturgy of the Dead, or completing a work of mercy by offering to God the suffering and discomforts of one’s own life.”

[Adapted from an article by Sr. Bernadette Mary Reis, FSP for the Vatican News]