Since the very first Jubilee declared by Pope Boniface XIII in the year 1300, the Church has called a total of twenty-nine Jubilees, including this Year of Mercy given us by Holy Father Pope Francis. Each of these has been a year of special emphasis on the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, a sacrament vital for the forgiveness of sins.
“Christ instituted the sacrament of Penance for all sinful members of his Church: above all for those who, since Baptism, have fallen into grave sin, and have thus lost their baptismal grace and wounded ecclesial communion. It is to them that the sacrament of Penance offers a new possibility to convert and to recover the grace of justification.” (Paragraph 1446, Catechism of the Catholic Church)
When a penitent receives absolution in this beautiful sacrament, he or she is freed from “eternal punishment,” which is the loss of communion with God. “Temporal punishment,” however, remains in the form of unhealthy attachment to worldly things, and requires purification here on earth or after death, in the state called purgatory. This purification is a lifelong process of conversion to holiness, and it proceeds from fervent charity, works of mercy, prayer, and various practices of penance.
Temporal punishment for one’s sins can also be remitted or wiped away through the Church’s doctrine and practice of indulgences. For the Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis has extended a very special plenary indulgence, which is the full remission of all temporal punishment due to sin. This plenary indulgence can be applied to oneself or to the souls of the deceased, and can be obtained by fulfilling the following conditions.