My dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
We have now begun the "Year of Faith" proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI to mark the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council and the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. In civil society, the celebration of a New Year is generally over by Jan. 2 and most New Year's resolutions are quickly forgotten. In the church, the observance of a holy year needs to be remembered throughout the year, not just on the first day. This Year of Faith will continue until Nov. 24, 2013, the Solemnity of Christ the King. We should keep this celebration in mind until then.
As we celebrate this Year of Faith, it will be helpful to consider what the Catholic Church means by celebrating a holy year such as this. The concept of a holy year is closely related to the notion of jubilee. In the Old Testament, a year of jubilee was considered a time of joy, for it was a year of remission or universal pardon. We read in the Book of Leviticus 25:10, "You shall sanctify the 50th year and shall proclaim remission to all the inhabitants of your land: for it is the year of jubilee."
The same conception forms the fundamental idea of the Christian Jubilee. Pope Boniface VIII instituted the first Christian Jubilee in the year 1300. On Feb. 22, 1300, Pope Boniface declared that he granted "great remissions and indulgences for sins" which are to be obtained "by visiting the city of Rome and the venerable basilica of the Prince of the Apostles." He specified that he concedes "not only full and copious, but the most full, pardon of all their sins," to those who fulfill certain conditions.
The granting of indulgences continues to be a part of the church's observance of a holy year. During the Year of Faith, Pope Benedict XVI has granted a Plenary Indulgence for the temporal punishment of sins, imparted by the mercy of God and applicable for one's own intention or for the souls of deceased faithful, to all the faithful who, truly penitent, take sacramental confession and the Eucharist and pray in accordance with the intentions of the supreme pontiff on one or more of the following occasions (but not more than once on each of these days except in danger of death):
(a) Each time they attend at least three sermons during a parish mission, or at least three lessons on the documents of the Second Vatican Council or the articles of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in church or any other suitable location.
(b) Each time they visit, in the course of a pilgrimage, a papal basilica, a Christian catacomb, a cathedral church or a holy site designated by the local ordinary for the Year of Faith, and there participate in a sacred celebration, or at least remain for a fitting period of time in prayer and pious meditation, concluding with the recitation of the Our Father, the Profession of Faith in any legitimate form, and invocations to the Blessed Virgin Mary and, depending on the circumstances, to the Holy Apostles and patron saints.
(c) Each time that, on the days designated by the local ordinary for the Year of Faith in any sacred place, they participate in a solemn celebration of the Eucharist or the Liturgy of the Hours, adding thereto the Profession of Faith in any legitimate form.
(d) On any day they chose, during the Year of Faith, if they make a pious visit to the baptistery, or other place in which they received the sacrament of baptism, and there renew their baptismal promises in any legitimate form.
In accord with Holy Father's generous granting of these indulgences, I designate in my capacity as diocesan bishop that the conditions indicated above in paragraph (b) may be fulfilled in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in the City of Springfield, Illinois, and the conditions indicated above in paragraph (c) may be fulfilled in any sacred place within the 28 counties that comprise the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois on the following days:
Nov. 25, 2012 – Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
Dec. 8, 2012 – Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
Dec. 12, 2012 – Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Dec. 25, 2012 – Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord (Christmas)
Jan. 1, 2013 – Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God
Jan. 6, 2013 – Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord
Feb. 22, 2013 – Feast Day of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle
March 31, 2013 – Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord
April 7, 2013 – Sunday of Divine Mercy
May 19, 2013 – Pentecost Sunday
May 26, 2013 – Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
June 2, 2013 – Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi)
June 7, 2013 – Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
June 22, 2013 – Memorial of Ss. Thomas More and John Fisher
June 29, 2013 –Solemnity of the Apostles Peter and Paul
Aug. 15, 2013 – Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Nov. 1, 2013 – Solemnity of All Saints
With the permission of the Holy Father, at the conclusion of the Year of Faith on Nov. 24, 2013, the Solemnity of Christ the King, I will impart the Papal Blessing with the Plenary Indulgence, to be gained by all the faithful who receive this blessing devoutly at the 10 a.m. Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
Those who cannot take part in solemn celebrations for serious reasons such as prisoners, the elderly, the sick, and their caregivers, will obtain the Plenary Indulgence in the same conditions, if they listen to the words of the pope or of the diocesan bishop broadcast on television or radio, recite the Our Father, the Profession of Faith, and other prayers in keeping with the objective of the Year of Faith, are united in spirit and thought to the faithful present, and offer the sufferings or discomforts of their life while being truly repentant.
I pray that many of the faithful of our diocese will take advantage of these spiritual opportunities for the benefit of their eternal salvation.
May God give us this grace. Amen.