Pope Francis grants plenary indulgence to Catholics marking Guadalupe feast at home

Pope Francis has granted a plenary indulgence to Catholics celebrating the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe at home this Saturday. 

Cardinal Carlos Aguiar Retes announced the pope’s decision following a Dec. 6 Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, reported ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner.

“The situation of the pandemic forced us, for the sake of everyone’s life, to keep the Guadalupe complex closed from Dec. 10 to Dec. 13, and therefore the celebrations of Our Mother, instead of coming here to her house, she wants to go to your house,” he said.

The Primate of Mexico offered further details in a letter dated Dec. 7.

He explained that in order to receive the indulgence — which the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines as “a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven” — Catholics must fulfill certain conditions.

First, they must prepare a home altar or other place of prayer in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Second, they must view a livestreamed or televised Mass from the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City on Dec. 12 “with devotion and with exclusive attention to the Eucharist.”

Third, they must meet the three usual conditions for receiving a plenary indulgence — sacramental confession, the reception of Holy Communion, and prayer for the pope’s intentions — once it is possible to do so.

Plenary indulgences remit all temporal punishment due to sin and must be accompanied by full detachment from sin. 

The cardinal emphasized that the indulgence was available to Catholics the world over.

“Aware of the fact that the devotion to the Virgen Morena goes beyond our borders, the Holy Father thought it appropriate to offer this indulgence to all the Catholic faithful of the world to join in our celebration by adhering to the requirements of the indulgence,” he wrote.

According to Vatican News, the cardinal’s letter was accompanied by a formal proclamation by Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, the dicastery of the Roman Curia that oversees indulgences.

Up 15 million pilgrims normally visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe during the first two weeks of December. But Church authorities decided to cancel this year’s pilgrimage because of the pandemic.

More than 1.2 million people have tested positive for the coronavirus in Mexico and 111,655 have died, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

Pope Francis is expected to mark the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe Dec. 12 by celebrating Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.

The feast day commemorates the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe to Juan Diego, an Aztec convert to Catholicism, in 1531. The apparition and its miraculous Marian image led to mass conversions of native American communities to Catholicism.

Devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe has continued for native communities, Mexicans, and across the Americas and the world.

Concluding his letter, Aguiar said: “Let us allow Our Lady to visit us in our homes this year. Let us open our doors to her and lift up our hearts so that she may bless us and cover us with her mantle.” 

“May Our Lord Jesus Christ and His Most Holy Mother, St. Mary of Guadalupe, continue to accompany us and bless us on this painful journey for all the people of God who wander in our archdiocese and throughout the world.”

COMING UP: Moral courage and the many cultures of death

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CRACOW. Thanks to the pandemic, it’s been two years since I was last in Cracow, where for three decades I’ve done extensive research and taught great students while forming friendships with many remarkable people. It was wonderful to be back in one of the world’s greatest cities, and soon after I arrived in late June, I took a long walk to see what had changed. The first major difference I noticed was that the plaza in front of the central railway station (named for my late friend Jan Nowak-Jeziorański, a World War II courier for the Polish Home Army and the man from whom the future John Paul II got real news via Radio Free Europe’s Polish service) has a new, strikingly modern memorial, dedicated to the memory of Colonel Ryszard Kukliński.

That name is not well-known throughout a western world that has largely forgotten the meaning and lessons of the Cold War. But if Jan Nowak-Jeziorański was right when he spoke about the Polish colonel in the mid-1990s, Ryszard Kuklinski was a genuine hero of the long, twilight struggle against communist totalitarianism — the man who helped prevent a bloody Soviet invasion of Poland to crush the nascent Solidarity movement.

An accomplished officer in the communist-era Polish Army, Ryszard Kukliński began to doubt the truth of what he had been told about the West when, as a member of an international commission, he met American military men in Vietnam in the mid-1960s. His doubts about communism and its purposes intensified by orders of magnitude in 1968, when the brutal Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia ground the Prague Spring to dust under the treads of Soviet tanks, and in 1970, when the Polish army shot Polish workers during labor strife. Privy to some of the Warsaw Pact’s most confidential strategic plans, he became convinced that, if the Cold War turned hot and the east bloc attacked the West, the Soviets would sacrifice Poland as retaliatory western tactical nuclear strikes hit the second wave of Warsaw Pact troops pushing west. So, in 1972, Kukliński, risking his life and his family’s safety, offered his services to the United States and for the next nine years was the West’s most important intelligence asset behind the iron curtain.

His greatest service to Poland and the cause of freedom came in the later months of 1980. Thanks to his efforts, the United States knew the entire order-of-battle the Soviet Union had organized to stamp out Solidarity, which had held its first formal congress in September 1980. With that information, and working in concert with the incoming Reagan administration, outgoing national security adviser Zbigniew Brzeziński, with the help of the AFL-CIO’s Lane Kirkland, was able to organize a comprehensive western response to a potential Soviet invasion of Poland: an international economic blockade that would have severely damaged the already-staggering Soviet economy. Faced with economic ruin, the Soviet leadership backed down and the Warsaw Pact divisions that had surrounded Poland withdrew.

Colonel Kukliński and his family were exfiltrated to the West; two of his sons later died under dubious circumstances that may have involved Russian retribution, and Kukliński lived out his life under an assumed name in the United States, dying in 2004. There was public controversy when he returned to his native Poland for a 1998 visit, with some charging that he had violated his officer’s oath by working for American intelligence for a decade. John Paul II, through various intermediaries, quietly passed the word that Kukliński was to be regarded in Poland as a national hero. Zbigniew Brzeziński, who held the exact same view, put it brilliantly, in a comment that appears on the Kukliński Memorial in Cracow: Colonel Kukliński was “the first Polish officer in NATO.” 

Communism was a distinctive form of the culture of death, for the effort to create “Homo Sovieticus” was a lethal assault on souls. Colonel Ryszard Kukliński took a courageous stand against that particular culture of death, knowing as he did that freedom is never cost-free: freedom lived nobly always requires sacrifice. His example should be pondered by Catholic citizens and Catholic public officials throughout the West today, who are called to resist, with similar moral courage and effect, that form of the culture of death that masquerades as the ideology of “choice.” May we and our elected officials be as principled and brave as the Polish officer who took what John Paul II described at the United Nations in 1995 as the “the risk of freedom.”