ON PREPARATION FOR THE HOLY YEAR
Encyclical of Pope Benedict XIV of June 26, 1749, in Preparation for the Holy Year
To all Patriarchs, Archbishops and Bishops.
The Apostolic Constitution which We have recently promulgated announces to Christ’s faithful the celebration of a Holy Year. It summons them to undertake holy pilgrimages, thus performing a work highly recommended in the Old Testament, which records the numerous journeys to the holy places of Jerusalem in the first centuries of the Church. This continuous custom has brought even emperors and kings to visit the sacred monuments of this fair City, especially the blessed tomb of the holy apostles Peter and Paul. Although heretics despise pilgrimages, Our writers have defended them convincingly. For if such pilgrimages are organized in a fitting and orderly manner by those who direct the churches, they unite the strivings of piety and religion; those who question pilgrimages seriously will understand this.
History of Pilgrimages
- In the old law God commanded all sons of the Israelites to approach the Tabernacle or the Temple of the Lord with devotion three times each year. “On three occasions throughout the year all your males will appear in the sight of the Lord your God in the place which He has chosen at the festivals of Azymes, of Weeks and of Tabernacles” (Dt 16). Elcana and his wife Anna carefully obeyed this command (1 Kgs I). And Our most beloved Redeemer, accompanied by His mother the Blessed Virgin and His fosterfather St. Joseph, came to the Temple at the appointed times (Lk 2). So in order that even the Gentiles should come in great numbers to the Temple built by Solomon, Solomon himself besought God in his kindness to grant the requests of foreign peoples who visited the Temple after lengthy journeys even if they were not reckoned among the Israelites: “In addition when the foreigner who is not of Your people Israel comes from a far land for the sake of Your name (for Your great name will be heard and Your strong hand and Your arm outstretched everywhere) . . . You will hear in heaven and in the firmament of Your habitation and You will do all that the foreigner asks of You.” (3 Kgs 8).
- Eusebius supplies a shining testimony when he records the arrival of St. Alexander, bishop of Cappadocia, in Jerusalem to gaze on those holy places and reverence them, saying: “Alexander was urged on by a divine oracle when he set out for Jerusalem from Cappadocia, where he had previously been ordained bishop, both to pray and to visit the places” (Hist Eccl, bk 6, chap. 11). But a much more eloquent witness to this practice is given by St. Jerome in epistle 46 (35) in the following words: “It would be a lengthy undertaking now to review the bishops, martyrs, and Christian teachers who have visited Jerusalem from the ascension of the Lord down to the present day. They felt that they had less devotion, less knowledge, and had not achieved the pinnacle, so to speak, of the virtues until they had worshipped Christ in those places where the Gospel first shone from the Cross.”
- It is not Our purpose here to append a long disquisition on the numerous visits of kings, bishops, prelates, and faithful on continual pilgrimages to the tombs of the Apostles, particularly since several famous scholars have previously treated this whole subject. We refer of course to Onuphrius Pavinus in his treatise On the Eminence of the Basilica of the Vatican, which We read often before its publication as it rested safely in the archives of the basilica. At the time, We were still among the lesser clergy, that is, appointed to the canons of the Vatican basilica and acting as Prefect of the Archives of this basilica; We refer also to Jacobus Gretserus, de sacris Peregrinationibus in tome 4, bk. 2, chap. 12ff, of the new edition of his works; Coccius, Thes. Catholic., bk. 5, chap. 17; Stanislaus Hosius, cap. de Caeremoniis; Rutilius Benzonius, de anno Sancti Jubilaei, bk. 6, chap. lf; Drexellius, tome 13, part 1, chap. 7, pp. 126ff of the Monachian edition; and quite recently Trombelli, de Cultu Sanctor, tome 1, pt. 2, chap. 46f. But the formula of the monk Marculf who lived in the seventh century is never mentioned by the above writers. His formula describes the way letters of recommendation, written for those setting out on pilgrimages, should be composed. These letters are addressed to the supreme pontiff and to bishops. This formula is to be found in bk. 2, chap. 49, and reads as follows: “The bearer of this, considering hard and toilsome journeys of little account, not because of idleness (others read: for the sake of wandering) but in the name of the Lord, and desirous of approaching the tombs of the blessed apostles of the Lord, Peter and Paul, to gain the benefits of their prayers, has asked me in my littleness to recommend him to your kindness.” St. John Chrysostom writes thus on this subject: “in the royal city of Rome emperors, consuls, and military commanders hasten without their retinue to the tombs of the fisherman and the tentmaker” (Quod Christus sit Deus, tome 1, p. 570, no. 9, Paris, 1718). Eginhard testifies that the emperor Charlemagne in the course of forty-seven years, under the spur of devotion, came to Rome four times, saying: “Charlemagne, within a span of forty-seven years, travelled to Rome to pray and accomplish what he had vowed.” And We must mention the fine testimony of Nicholas 1, who flourished in the ninth century, which records the very numerous pilgrimages to this city in honor of the blessed remains of the Apostle Peter. “So many thousands of men hastening from every region of the earth betake themselves daily to the protection and intercession of blessed Peter the prince of the Apostles, and purpose to remain near his tomb to the very end of their lives. By analogy with the incident recorded in Acts when the vessel was let down from heaven in which all kinds of living things were shown to this same Blessed Peter who is their guide, the Catholic Church is signified by the City of Rome alone, in which the bodily presence of this Apostle is carefully reverenced, and which contains as in a vessel all nations of all animals (whose spiritual significance is men)” (Epistle 8 to Emperor Michael).
Defense of Pilgrimages
- However, Our writers have excellently defended the practice of pilgrimages against the falsehoods of the heretics, and the Church’s prelates have ensured that these pilgrimages are properly conducted and free from all scandal. Without wishing to compose a dissertation or treatise, We merely indicate what Jonas, bishop of Orleans, a writer of the ninth century, wrote against Claudius of Turin who was opposed to holy images and so to holy pilgrimages as well. We also indicate what Aegidius Carlerius, Dean of the church of Cameraca, said in his famous sermon at Basel against the errors of Nicholas the Taborite, in which he clearly demolished by learned arguments whatever objections his opponent raised to pilgrimages, as is obvious to the reader of this sermon in Harduin, Collectionis Conciliorum, tome 8, pp. 1896ff. Likewise to be borne in mind are the decrees of the second council of Cabilone in the year 813 (chap. 45) and the fuller expression of the council of Bourges in the year 1584 (Harduin, tome 10, pp. 1466ff), for it will be clear that some canons were formed to remove certain nonsense which had managed to infect holy pilgrimages. And the information which Laurentius Bochelli carefully assembled on this subject in in Decretis Ecclesiae Gallicanae, bk. 4, 14, de Peregrinationibus, should not be passed over in silence.
- We also know well the two little works of St. Gregory of Nyssa, one de iis, qui adeunt Jerosolymam and the other ad Eustatiam, Ambrosiam, et Basilissam (Operum, tome 3, pp. 651ff, Paris, 1638), which the heterodox often misuse to deride and condemn the journeys of the faithful to holy places. We realize too that a serious dispute has arisen among scholars as to the authenticity of these works. Lippomano, Baronius, Natalis, Alexander, Tillemont, and Ceillerus believe them to be genuine. On the other hand, Cardinal Bellarmine considers them of doubtful authenticity. Gretserus even condemns them as forgeries and apocryphal and attempts to prove this by many arguments in his precise annotations on p. 71ff in tome 3 of the above edition. But let us leave the dispute to one side; grant the works to be genuine and grant that St. Gregory inveighed against the abuses which had infected pilgrimages to the holy places of Jerusalem. Let us condemn the ridiculous opinion of those who say that these pilgrimages are altogether necessary for the attainment of eternal salvation. All of this does not weaken or destroy the truth We put forward at the start. For We do not insist on the necessity of sacred journeys, but simply recommend them as beneficial. We do not defend the nonsense which sometimes develops in the course of long journeys, but as will later be clear, We prevent scandals from arising by applying timely remedies. Even if the over-zealous holy Doctor at times uses a vehement style to attack the holy pilgrimages to Jerusalem, either some harsh opinions are to be believed about the inferior morals of pilgrims or about the general sense and custom of the Church. It considers the holy journeys of Christians to be pious and devout works, provided that they are organized with proper modesty and discipline. The Church’s judgment is preferable even to that of a Doctor renowned for his holiness and teaching.
Responsibilities of Those Going on Pilgrimages
- We especially recommend pilgrimage to the bishops, provided that their physical health is good and that no loss will befall their flock from the absence of the shepherd. Indeed they should remember that many of their predecessors-at least those who lived reasonably close-came to the holy city every year to join the Roman Pontiff in celebrating the feast days of the most holy Apostles Peter and Paul; this is well known from Letters 13 and 16 of St. Paulinus. We exhort also the priests and the rest of the clergy to come, provided that they bring dimissorial letters from their bishops, as is proper. For this law originated in the earliest centuries of the Church, as is clear from Canons 41 and 42 of the Council of Laodicea in the year 372 (Harduin, tome 1, pp. 789-790). We exhort the Regular clergy also to come, provided that they obtain the appropriate approval of their superiors. With equal zeal We exhort the laity to come, provided that they learn properly what they should do from their parish priest or confessor before they undertake the journey. However, to prevent the priests or confessors from being easily misled, they should put the questions to the laity very carefully according to the theologians, especially Theophilus Raynardus in his treatise Heteroclita spiritualia (Operum, tome 15, p. 217, no. 13). “A pilgrimage,” says Raynardus, “is a work of supererogation and belongs to voluntary devotion. Its performance is not of equal worth with acts of virtue which are an obligation. Thus a husband who is bound to cleave to his wife by the tie of marriage will do evil if he undertakes a long pilgrimage against the will of his wife and leaves her at home, etc. Indeed, even if his wife consents, a long pilgrimage by the husband could constitute an aberration, if the absence might result in the loss of virtue by either of the spouses. Similarly, it would be unusual for the father of a family to go on a pilgrimage, since he is needed at home to support his family. The same judgment must be made on an impoverished man who chooses to visit the holy places when the only way he can repay his debts is by staying in some one place and working.”
Everyone knows of the plenary indulgence for sins by Urban II at the Council of Clermont bestowed on those who enlisted in the holy army for the recovery of the holy places in Jerusalem and wore the emblem of the Cross. “Whosoever journeys to Jerusalem to free the Church of God solely from devotion, and not for the sake of acquiring honor or money-let that journey be considered a full repentance”-these are the words of the above-mentioned council which was held in 1095 and are contained in Labbe’s edition, tome 10. To the question of “Whether a man can take the Cross if there are fears for his continence?” St. Thomas answers, in accordance with the teaching which We have set out above, that “it necessarily devolves on a husband to carry his wife’s cross since the husband is the head of his wife. But to take the Cross and go over the seas lies in the sphere of his own will. Therefore if his wife cannot go with him because of some impediment and her continence is questioned, he must not be advised to take the Cross and leave his wife. The case is different, however, if the wife willingly proposes continence or wishes and is able to go with her husband” (quodlibet. 4, art. 11). But We do not discourage even women from coming to Rome at the time of the year of Jubilee, if it is for their good and they are not bound by laws of enclosure. For there are many examples at hand which recommend holy journeys by women. St. Ambrose describes the haste of St. Helena in going to the holy places. Socrates records the pilgrimages to Jerusalem of Eudoxia, who married Theodosius. St. Jerome shows the Roman matron Paula anxious to visit the places in the Holy Land. With the same great zeal St. Bridget journeyed to Compostella and Rome to kiss the tomb of the holy Apostles. During the long period We have spent in this city as a servant of the Holy See, We have witnessed the repeated arrival of women of all ages and classes. However, to prevent the enemy sowing weeds where the cautious father of the family sows wheat, We beseech those who are entrusted with the protection of discipline and morals to guard carefully against the sins which easily arise from young women when they encounter those of different character, disposition, and sex. But if married women undertake a journey, their brothers should act as guardians in the absence of their husbands; or at least they should be entrusted to men whose kinship both frees them from suspicion and makes them concerned about the preservation of chastity.
Tomb of Peter and Paul
- It now remains for Us to reveal at last the purpose of Our exhortation. But We cannot explain this well without first setting out some noteworthy facts from the holy Fathers and the records of Church history. St. John Chrysostom asserts that the city of Rome is worthy of praise because its size, antiquity, beauty, huge population, riches, and her war-time victories elicit great wonder. But this is not the chief reason for his commendation. For he saw another object in Rome which not only elicited praises but in addition, inspired the greatest love and longing-the sacred remains of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, which greatly increase the noble glory and dignity of Rome. “Therefore,” says the holy Doctor, “although I could praise Rome for other reasons, for its size, its antiquity, its beauty, its huge population, its power, its riches, and its fine martial feats, I pass over all these reasons and proclaim Rome blessed for the single reason that Paul in his lifetime wrote to the Romans and loved them and spoke to them in person and ended his life there. For this reason then, rather than all the others, Rome is more famous, and like a great strong body the city has two shining eyes, the bodies of these saints. The sky is not so shining when the sun sends forth its rays as the city of the Romans in its possession of those two lanterns which send forth light over the whole world” (Homily 32, in Epistolam ad Romanos, tome 9, p. 757, of the edition mentioned earlier). He reverenced the bodies of the blessed Apostles from afar since he could not gaze on them in person and impatiently desired to visit Rome. “Who will now give me the power,” he continues, “to embrace the body of Paul, to cleave to his tomb, to see the dust of that body which brought to completion the work of Christ, which bore His stigmata and spread abroad in every place His preaching?” and a little later: “Oh! to see the tomb where lie the arms of righteousness, the arms of light, and the limbs which now live, since they were dead in his lifetime while Christ lived in them all, the members which were crucified to the world, the members of Christ, which put on Christ, the temple of the Spirit, the holy building, the limbs which were bound together by the Spirit, which were transfixed by the fear of God and carried the stigmata of Christ. This body, more than any towers and walls, protects Rome as if with walls and the body of Peter accompanies it. For Paul honored him in his lifetime: ‘I went up to see Peter.”‘
History of Idolatry
- So We can safely follow St. John Chrysostom in saying that Our city with its spacious buildings and its wonderful adornments may justly attract and please its beholders. However Our prayers and exhortation to the faithful do not rest on this foundation. The chief glory of Rome is that the head of the Catholic religion and the center of its unity established residence here. Because idolatry prevailed in the city for so long, it is wonderful to see how completely it has been destroyed. Scholars are acquainted with the opinion of Petrus Angelus Bargaeus in his well-known letter, de privatorum publicorumque aedificiorum Urbis Romae eversoribus, in which he tries to prove that the magnificent theatres, temples, and baths as well as the many images of idols were not destroyed by the Goths, Vandals, and other savage nations. He contends that they were demolished by the Roman Pontiffs, especially St. Gregory the Great, and others so as to remove completely from their presence all remembrance of idolatrous worship and the provocation of superstition. But whether or not this is true, he certainly succeeded in completing a laborious treatise on the profane and superstitious remains of the pagans interred in the churches. He has also named and counted the churches which were built upon the foundations of profane pagan temples; these can still be seen in Rome. So We recommend sacred pilgrimages in order that the faithful may visit these holy places with the same spirit of piety which strongly inspired St. John Chrysostom even though he never was able to visit Rome.
Origin of the Indulgence
- But We have not yet set out all the reasons for Our present exhortation. What is said to have occurred in 1300 in the time of Boniface VIII is well known. At that time a rumor spread that in the first year of every century a plenary indulgence for sins was granted to all who approached the tombs of the holy apostles. The originator of this rumor, which was rife not only in Rome but also in many other parts of the world, despite a long and careful search, was never found. Thereupon Boniface VIII at the very turn of the century published his famous constitution Antiquorum habet fida relatio in which he granted the fullest forgiveness of sins to all who confessed with true repentance and visited the basilicas of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul fifteen times if they were strangers and thirty times if they were Romans. And furthermore he conferred forever on the first year in future centuries the same benefit of most ample indulgences obtainable on the same conditions. The whole progress of this affair was recorded by the trustworthy pen of Jacobus Cajetan Cardinal Deacon of St. George in Velabra, the nephew of this Pontiff, and is printed in Bibliothecae Maximae Patrum, tome 25, p. 937f, of the Lyons edition. Similarly the period of a hundred years prescribed by Boniface VIII was reduced to fifty years by Clement VI, to thirty-three years by Urban VI, and finally to twenty-five years by Paul 11. Clement VI added a visitation of the Lateran basilica and Urban VI, of the Liberian basilica. In Our recently published Constitution, We have made no changes in the customary practice of the Church, either regarding the churches to be visited or the number of visits or works prescribed for obtaining indulgences, except for adding the reception of the Holy Eucharist.
Finally, Our aim is to ensure that the pious works undertaken on these pilgrimages are accomplished with the proper humility and devotion. For the performance of these works is mandatory, not just advisable. Now We address all the faithful with the words with which Augustinus Valerius, the watchful bishop of the church of Verona (soon to be an excellent Cardinal of the holy Roman Church), exhorted the beloved people of his city and diocese in his in Pastorali epistola in 1574. This was published on the occasion of the Jubilee Gregory XIII solemnized in the following year. The citation from the epistle is translated from Italian into Latin: “Brothers, the grace of the Holy Spirit summons you to Rome in the coming year of Jubilee; likewise the great treasure which is offered to you invites you. I exhort you all equally for your part to don the vestment of joy which is the permanent companion of a good conscience. For so it will come about that on receiving the grace of sanctification in this year of Jubilee, you will return from the holy pilgrimage more ready than before to serve God.”
St. Charles Borromeo
- We would similarly like to make Our own, the words used by St. Charles Borromeo, the famous Archbishop of the church of Milan, in two letters to the flock entrusted to him, written in Italian in order to be understood by all. The first letter was written on September 10, 1574, that is, in the year preceding the Jubilee proclaimed by Gregory XIII, the second in the year 1576 when the time of Jubilee was over. We are glad to reproduce a portion from each letter in a Latin translation. In the earlier letter he writes: “The opportunity which brings these great advantages for your souls, dearest sons, is not to be despised. Do not, we beseech you, reject this great benefit because you fear the journey will tire you temporarily. Reflect on how diligently you pursue earthly benefits and advantages. For their sake you readily undertake long dangerous journeys, without being deterred by toil, pain, or discomfort. Shame on you then if you are more concerned with your body than your soul. For if it is a matter of gaining freedom from a temporal burden, some of you do not hesitate to undertake very difficult journeys, but this holy pilgrimage obtains freedom from many serious sins which encumber the soul. Because it is so advantageous for the soul, you ought to be inspired to undertake this holy journey. The traditional devotion of the faithful and the ancient example of peoples and princes summon you.” St. Charles wrote the second letter when the year of Jubilee had ended. The Pope at St. Charles’ request had transferred the plenary indulgence of the Jubilee to Milan for the benefit of those who had not gone to Rome in the preceding year. This is what St. Charles said: “You know how we prayed last year that all of you should make a pilgrimage to Rome and not let any business or hindrance deter you. We encouraged everyone to hasten to gain spiritual riches for himself and to reverence the Church by going to Rome. By so doing, one could obtain in person the Apostolic blessings, revere the holy bodies of blessed Peter and Paul and the relics of the other saints, and see the ancient, venerable churches and other places which the blood of martyrs has stained and consecrated. For that City was singled out when God established there forever the See of St. Peter, the infallible truth of the Catholic Faith and the magisterium of discipline and morals. The earth, walls, altars, churches, martyrs’ tombs, and every view of the city presents some holy object to the mind; those who visit those holy retreats in a properly prepared state feel and know this. Hence We many times exhorted you by voice and urged you on by letter and advised you by the example of our own pilgrimage, since we felt we should lead you in this situation.”
Importance of Instruction
- We thought We could end Our encyclical letter now, but contrary to Our preconceived expectation, many points still remain to be dealt with. The fathers of the second synod of Cabilona in 813 in Canon 45 mention several foolish practices which were common in their time on the occasion of pilgrimages and which perhaps could occur even in our day. “For some make a serious mistake,” says the canon, “and travel to Rome, Tours, and other places without instruction, under the pretext of prayer. Some priests, deacons, and other clerics who live carelessly think that they will be cleansed from sins and fulfill their ministry if they arrive at the aforesaid places. Likewise some lay people think they are safe from the penalties of past or present sins by thronging to these places. They are so senseless as to think that the mere visitation of holy places cleanses them of their sins” (Harduin, tome 4, p. 1039). The abbot Albert von Staden in his Chronico similarly records other foolish notions of succeeding times which render the pilgrimages of the faithful ineffectual. “I have never or hardly ever seen anyone who came back improved from lands over sea or the tombs of the saints.” To meet those abuses the fathers of Cabilona prescribed the following remedies: “Those who have confessed their sins and have been advised by their priests to do penance, show praiseworthy devotion in wishing to visit the tombs of the Apostles or other saints while praying urgently, giving alms, correcting their way of life, and putting their morals in order.” The abbot of Staden also does not conceal the remedies, saying: “I think this results when they neither leave nor come back with proper devotion: for they should set out with the attitude that they are about to depart this life.” Therefore We should concentrate on obviating all these evils and on explaining the necessary preconditions for receiving indulgences.
- As everyone knows, several months intervene between the issue at Rome of the Bull proclaiming the year of Jubilee and the actual start of this Holy Year. Continuing the ancient practice of the Church, the holy door is opened on the next vigil of the Birth of the Lord; then the Year of Jubilee begins. We use these intervening months to hold missions in different districts of Rome. We highly recommended their usefulness in Our pastoral Edicts when We were Archbishop of Bologna. These appeared in print and were soon translated into Latin. We impress upon the evangelical laborers in missions to instruct the people in order to explain the Catholic doctrine of indulgences and of the universal Jubilee, rather than in purely academic questions of Apologetic and Moral Theology. The faithful must be fully aware that sin and its eternal punishment are remitted by the Sacrament of Penance if one makes proper use of it; however the entire temporal punishment is very seldom taken away. This must be removed either by satisfactory works in this life or by the fire of Purgatory after death. The holy Council of Trent in session 6, chap. 4, and canon 30 of the same session teaches this under the heading de Justificatione. Inform the Christian people of the unfailing treasury in the Church which was constituted by the immeasurable abundance of the merits of Christ and increased by the merits of His saints. Distribution from this treasury has been entrusted by Christ the Lord to His vicar on earth, the Roman Pontiff; consequently the Pontiff prudently decides when these merits can be applied, either by way of absolution for the living or by way of prayer for the dead, provided that the living have destroyed their sin and its eternal punishment by Penance, and that the dead have departed this life united with God in charity. This distribution of merits is in the form of indulgences. When one obtains one, he is freed from the temporal punishment due to sins to the extent granted and defined by the lawful distributor. This we read in the constitutions of the Supreme Pontiffs and especially in the famous Decretal of Our Predecessor Leo X to Cardinal Tommaso de Vio, otherwise known as Cajetan, when he was serving as Apostolic Legate in Germany. The result is that the practice of indulgences is most beneficial to Christians; hence the evil idea which either denies the benefit of indulgences or deprives the Church of the power of conferring them is to be condemned. This was decided by the Council of Trent, session 25, in the decree on Indulgences. Finally, the Christian people must be advised that the Indulgence of the Jubilee year is a plenary one, but is distinguished from other plenary indulgences also distributed on the occasion of the Jubilee by the fact that in a holy year of Jubilee, confessors designated for this purpose receive a wider power both of absolving from sins and of dispensing from certain bonds and impediments which often ensnare the consciences of penitents.
Constitution of Leo X
- We feel it is appropriate to reproduce here the constitution which Leo X promulgated: “We indicate to you by the present document that the Roman Pontiff can forgive sin and can remove the punishment due to actual sinssin by means of the sacrament of Penance, and the temporal punishment by means of ecclesiastical indulgence. He can for reasonable causes grant indulgences to the faithful who are members of Christ, be they in this life or in Purgatory. The Church can, by Apostolic authority, grant an indulgence both for the living and the dead. It is accustomed both to confer the indulgence itself by way of absolution and to transfer it by way of prayer; accordingly all, both living and dead, who have obtained these indulgences are freed from as much temporal punishment due to their actual sins as corresponds to the indulgence which was granted and acquired. We decree etc. by Our Apostolic authority etc. that this doctrine must be held and preached by all.”
Instruction of the Faithful
- This will sufficiently inform the people on the subject of indulgences. But since special pains must be taken to ensure that the faithful do seek indulgences, the clergy should provide further instruction. With Apostolic zeal they should attack in their preaching the vices of the age which flourish everywhere, remembering the words of Isaiah 58: “Cry out; do not stop. Raise up your voice as a trumpet and announce their crimes to My people, their sins to the house of Jacob.” Let them proclaim the need for penance and insist on the inevitable loss of the soul unless sins are destroyed by means of repentance, as is conveyed in the saying of Christ the Lord, Luke 13: “Unless you do penance, you will all likewise perish.” In addition, let them extol the riches of God’s mercy which are poured out for those who completely cast off their former evil ways and provide themselves with a new heart and a new spirit. All the while they should be aware of the Lord’s words in Ezekiel 18: “Be converted and do penance for all your iniquities, and you shall not be destroyed by iniquity. Cast from you all your prevarications and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit…. For I do not wish for the death of the one who is dying, says the Lord God, turn again and live.” And in chapter 33: “As I live, says the Lord God, I do not wish for the death of the sinner, but rather that the sinner be converted from his way and live.”
Benefits of Confession
- When they have dwelt on the virtue of penance, they should then preach on the sacrament of Penance redoubling their exhortations and advice to the faithful to enter on the year of Jubilee with the proper dispositions, fortified by this most wholesome sacrament. Then they should teach the people how to make a beneficial confession and explain the absolute necessity for repeating former void confessions. Furthermore they should encourage even those who do not consider themselves obliged to do so, to confess again their past sins in the sacrament of Penance and to make a general confession of their sins. “Although it is not necessary to confess the same sins twice, still We consider it salutary to do so on account of the shame felt, which is so large a part of repentance,” as Our predecessor Benedict XI wrote in his decretal Inter cunctas de Privilegiis, to be found among his general Occasional Decretals. St. Charles Borromeo writes in agreement with this view in his ad Confessarios Monitis, a work which Our predecessor Innocent XII had reprinted in Rome to be an example and pattern for those who hear confessions. “Confessors,” says St. Charles, “should encourage their penitents to make a general confession, having regard to the nature of each person and the suitability of time and place. This way, in reviewing their past, they may return to the Lord with greater eagerness, making good any mistakes from previous confessions.”
- St. Francis de Sales, in many of his writings, recommends the benefit to be derived from general confessions. We cite here in Latin translation the gentle words he wrote in a letter to a woman who had been widowed: “I have received a letter from your father requesting me to reveal to him some measure which would assist him in saving his soul. I gladly, and perhaps more readily than I should, accede to his desire. The advice I am giving him can be summed up in two points: one is the careful and comprehensive examination of his previous life followed by a general confession and corresponding repentance. For no good man avoids this before death. The second point consists in aiming at a gradual detachment of the mind from the attractions of the world.” The text of this letter can be found in tome I of his Operum, p. 914, no. 6, Paris, 1669. Benefits from general confessions during holy missions are referred to in the Italian biography of St. Vincent de Paul, founder of the Congregation of the Mission. Hence the Rules of this Congregation, approved by the Holy See, state that one of their ministries is: “to encourage and hear general confessions of a penitent’s entire earlier life.” The words of Urban VIII contained in the bull Salvatoris nostri, confirming the establishment of this Congregation, have the same tenor, for he recommends the beneficial practice of general confession as follows: “From the abundant success of these (i.e. of the works and ministries proper and peculiar to the institution of the Congregation), it seems manifest that this pious institute is most acceptable to God, of great benefit to men, and altogether necessary: for by means of it the practice of sacramental confession and of general confession and of the most holy Eucharist has become frequent, although previously it was rare.”
Hence Our predecessor Innocent XII, reflecting on the serious losses which can result from the making of past invalid confessions, exhorts each pilgrim before his departure to make a general confession. This exhortation is in the Instruction which he published after the proclamation of the year of Jubilee. Here is Our Latin translation of his words: “The one who is on the point of leaving (on a pilgrimage) should first make a valid general confession; he should be advised of this in order to cure any possible defects of his previous confessions.” Assuredly directors of conscience agree unanimously that general confession is beneficial. The entire account of one’s life is reviewed and this results in fear and humility; a greater horror of sin develops; one’s strength is increased to meet and rout any temptation to evil; a most pleasant peace and quiet enters the mind and the defects of previous confessions are repaired.
Advice to Confessors
- We know well that sacramental confessions-whether made to remove everyday faults, to rectify invalid confessions, or to gather together all the sins of one’s life-will only produce the desired results if they are heard by ministers of Penance who are upright, learned, and properly educated in the sound doctrine of the Church. When We were in charge of the Archbishopric of Bologna, We appointed as ministers of Penance only those whom We personally or others in Our presence approved after an examination in which they had to give substantial proof of morals and doctrine. We did not give anyone unlimited authority to hear confessions. Rather, We granted a limited authority for a short period of time in order that, once proven, they might be examined a second time either by Ourselves or by others in Our presence. Although this was a great bother to confessors, it was of great benefit to penitents. Currently, however, We are so engaged in governing the universal Church, a task practically beyond Our strength, that We have left the examination of confessors for the city of Rome to the judgment of other trustworthy men. Only when Lent approaches do We indicate to Preachers and Parish Priests whom We have convened all matters which are beneficial to their position and to the salvation of souls. But a much more important reason impels Us to address all confessors on the occasion of the coming year of Jubilee, and accordingly to offer them the following advice and exhortations in the strongest possible words and with vehemence of spirit.
- In the first place We remind them that they are guilty of serious sin if, while sitting in the holy tribunal of Penance, they hear their penitents carelessly without advising or questioning them, but immediately pronouncing the form of absolution when the penitent has completed the list of sins. Such a procedure is, of course, far different from that of a skilful doctor who pours oil and wine on the wound. Yet every minister of the sacrament of Penance does a doctor’s work. So they should examine carefully not only the circumstances of the sins but also the character and disposition of the one who has committed the sins; then the minister can prescribe the appropriate remedies to enable him to obtain the salvation of his soul. “But the priest should be discerning and prudent, so that as an experienced doctor does, he likewise may pour oil and wine on the wounds of the afflicted person by carefully investigating the circumstances both of the sinner and of the sin. Thus he may discover the proper advice to offer and the proper remedy to apply by taking different measures for the cure of the sick man.” These are the words of Our famous predecessor Innocent III at the General Council of the Lateran, chapter Omnis utriusque sexus, de Poenitentiis et remissionibus. The Roman Ritual approved by Paul V, likewise Our predecessor, in an Apostolic Constitution, agrees with this doctrine, where it states under the heading de Sacramento Poenitentiae: “If the penitent does not mention the number, kind, and circumstances of sins, the priest should prudently question him.” But if the confessor knows that the penitent has not confessed certain sins, whether from forgetfulness or ignorance, the confessor must circumspectly and prudently remind him of his omissions since otherwise the confession would lack completeness. He must warn and correct him that by proper preparation, he may obtain the fruit of the sacrament of Penance. This is the opinion of St. Bernardine of Siena, who answers in the affirmative the question whether the confessor is obliged to investigate and examine the conscience of the sinner carefully. He says that “this is to be done not only regarding omissions through carelessness or shame but also regarding his ignorant silence, because sinners do not know the things of God. So, if the confessor hears anything from the penitent or knows of anything through a probable conjecture, he should remind him of it. Otherwise, it may be feared that the penitent is crassly ignorant, which according to William does not excuse him. Perhaps though he does not know that such an act is a sin, for according to Isidore the ignorant man sins every day and does not know it” (tome 2, serm. 27, art. 2, chap. 3, p. 167).
- The theologians give clear direction in these cases, even those not known as strict disciplinarians. For We are not here discussing so-called invincible ignorance of positive law, when the penitent has fallen into some sin known only to the confessor, which could occasion greater evil if the penitent was made aware of it. We are speaking of vincible ignorance, when the penitent either does not know certain actions to be sins, although he should know it, or he is surrounded by circumstances of action which confirm the sinner in evildoing if the confessor passes them by without comment. This would then scandalize others, who could infer that certain acts are permissible from seeing them done without penalty by persons who regularly receive the Church’s sacraments. In these cases the opinion of the theologians is unanimous that a confessor must assist the penitent by advice and questioning, even when he sees that this will make the penitent sorrowful. But if at the time the result does not correspond to the advice of the confessor, there is still hope that it will be of benefit later on, since God is helping. Among theologians of the Order of Preachers or of those who accept the teaching of St. Thomas, reference may be made to Solo, in 4. Sententiar., dist. 18, quest. 2, sect. 4, and Silvius, in 3. par. D. Thomae, vol. 4, quest. 9, arts. 2 to 7. Among the students of the Franciscan family and the other disciples of Scotus, Cardinal de Laureaea, in 4. Sentent., vol. 2, de Sacrament. Poeniten., disp. 21, art. 3, n. 64ff. Among the writers of the Society of Jesus: Suarez, in 3. part. D. Thomae, vol. 4, disp. 32, sects. 3 and 4; Theophilus Reynaudus, vol. 16, Heteroclit. spiritual., pt. 9, n. 4; Cardinal Antonius, tract. de Poenitent., art. 3, quest. 3; and Cardinal de Lugo, de Sacram. Poenitent., disp. 22, sect. 2, where in his burning zeal for the salvation of souls he attacks the lazy confessors of bishops, prelates, princes, and governors who, though they hear no self-accusation for sins which are public knowledge, stay silent, and with no exhortation dispense the grace of absolution after a hasty decision.
“In the second place,” he says, “I consider what must be said of the obligation of confessors of prelates, princes, governors and suchlike when they see or know that their penitents do not really fulfill their duty in conferring benefits, selecting ministers or in governing their subjects, in giving alms from the excess of the church revenues or the like. In these cases it should be noted that ignorance is seldom invincible and without fault. Also their ignorance is seldom not a scandal to their subjects, who readily believe that what they observe their prelates and princes doing is permissible, or at least not very harmful. Therefore the confessor is obliged to advise all penitents of their obligations. He does not fulfill his function by absolving the sins which the penitent tells him; if he does only this, then he is responsible for what his penitent overlooked. Then as a blind man leading the blind, they both will fall into the eternal pit. So if he trembles in the presence of the powerful, let him not take on himself the office of shepherd, but modestly excuse himself as one less fit to bear that burden.” This salutary opinion of Cardinal de Lugo refers not only to those who hear the confessions of bishops and princes. It also binds equally all confessors who hear the confessions of penitents whose morals and example are a proximate occasion of sin, if not of externally sinful actions at least of evil desires and morose delectations, and who in spite of this customarily accommodate themselves to the penitent unaffected by any concern for manifesting the miserable state of a sinful life.
- Another warning for confessors is this, that if it should happen (and it tends to happen rather often) that the minister of confession hears something from his penitents which deserves to be specially investigated, he should beware of responding by intuition, but should devote suitable time and thought to the matter before settling it. It would certainly be desirable that every confessor should be endowed with what is called “eminent” knowledge, but since this is given to few men, it is wholly necessary that each be provided with at least competent knowledge. More cannot be expected: since moral theology deals with so many important questions which depend on a knowledge of the sacred canons and the apostolic constitutions, it is obviously a hard task for anyone to know all these well and immediately to solve every question as those men often do who excel in eminent knowledge. It will then be sufficient if confessors of lesser mark duly settle the more difficult questions by consulting books. Our predecessor Innocent IV wisely observes: “We consider a knowledge eminent if it can discuss and define subtle problems and quickly find their solutions. But that man has an average knowledge who can investigate matters in a certain manner; although he cannot answer all questions, he can search out the truth in books and so does not arrive at all his solutions quickly” (in Commentariis ad Cap., Cum in cunctis, no. 2, under the heading de electione, et electi potestate. So when a more difficult question or a new kind of deed is reported to the confessor and he must consequently consult books, he must do so carefully and selectively. For it is well known that among so many writings there are some whose opinions and assertions do not well agree with the simplicity of the Gospel and the teaching of the holy Fathers. “Many opinions advocate a relaxation of Christian discipline and bring ruin to souls, some being old opinions revived, others newly invented, and the great license of rank minds grows daily more extravagant. By this means, a way of thinking completely at variance with the simplicity of the Gospel and the teaching of the holy Fathers has crept in concerning matters of conscience. If the faithful should adopt it as correct, a mighty corruption of the Christian life would ensue,” to quote Our predecessor Alexander VII (decree published September 7, 1665). On this subject We do not want to use plainer speech; We do not want to touch on the disputed questions of the trustworthiness of authors and the soundness of their doctrine. It will be enough to advise confessors not to rely on their own opinion in a doubtful matter. Before judging the case they should refer to as many books as possible, especially those with more substantial doctrine, and then support the opinion which reason suggests and authority confirms. This is exactly what We taught in Our encyclical on usury where We wrote: “They should not cleave excessively to their own private opinions, but before giving an answer they should examine many authors who are especially commended and then take the side which they see is upheld both by reason and authority” (Bullarii nostri, tome 1, ord. 143, sect. 8). We repeat this advice now. For Our statement is not limited to matters of usury, but refers also to all matters which can in any way contribute to the sacramental forum or the proper direction of consciences.
- In the third place We advise confessors to consider the celebrated saying of venerable Cardinal Bellarmine: “there would not be such ready sinning if there were not such ready absolution.” We also advise them to recall the propositions Our predecessors anathematized, especially propositions 60-63, condemned by Innocent XI on March 2, 1679, and so to learn the cases in which absolution is to be granted, denied, or deferred. “The diligent priest should understand when and to whom absolution should be granted, denied, or deferred. He should not absolve those who give no signs of sorrow or are unwilling to lay aside hate and enmity, to make restitution to others if they are able, to leave the proximate occasion of sin or to abandon sins in other ways and to change their life for the better. Nor should he absolve those who have given public scandal, unless they make public satisfaction and remove the scandal.” These are the words not of a theologian of the stricter school, but of the Roman Ritual. This also commands confessors, in cases where they deny or defer absolution, to explain to their penitents in a mild spirit and gentle words the reasons for their doing so, and show them that it is necessary to do so for the salvation of their souls. Then they should encourage them to return as soon as possible and inspire them to perform properly everything which they are commanded before their return; then when they return to the sacramental court, they may receive absolution. But when they grant absolution, especially to those who seldom approach the sacrament of Penance or only when burdened with many sins, they should exhort them continually. They should emphasize to them the wretched life they have lived under the yoke of sin and explain the vileness of their sins in order, of course, that they may be heartily sorry and seriously resolve to abandon sin in the future. For it is considered that strong serious exhortations by confessors delivered in the forum of Penance are much more effective than the holy sermons of preachers in separating a penitent from his sins. For the hearers of sermons tend to refer the criticism they hear to others rather than to themselves. This, however, cannot occur in the case of a private warning from one’s confessor which strikes one individual penitent and is brandished before his eyes unalloyed with any palliation of or excuse for his sins. Confessors should not reply that this is impossible when the large number of penitents encourages brevity, for the golden statement of St. Francis Xavier resolves this difficulty: “He considered that penitents should be helped carefully, not hurriedly, advising that confessors should prefer to hear a few confessions properly than many at a rash speed” (Tursellini in ejus Vita [S. Francisci Xaverii], bk. 6, chap. 17).
- Our fourth point concerns satisfaction, the final part of the sacrament of Penance and necessary for its completeness. Our loving mother the Church, in sympathy for human weakness, has softened in some ways primitive severity and abandoned the practice of the Penitential canons. “In the weakness of our times when not only men’s merits but their bodies are weak, that ancient strict censure is not allowed to remain for all offenses” (in Can. Fraternitatis, dist. 34). Therefore it is not right for confessors to rashly impose a sacramental satisfaction as a whim, but in so doing they should unite the laws of justice, prudence, and fairness. “In ordaining a penalty for satisfaction, the priests will consider that nothing is to be imposed from their own judgment, but all is to be guided by justice, prudence, and piety. This is laid down in the Roman catechism for the use of priests, which was composed at the command of the Council of Trent and published by Our predecessor St. Pius V under the heading de Poenitentia. The Council of Trent ordained these matters when it laid down this salutary doctrine: “Therefore the priests of the Lord should impose salutary and fitting satisfaction as their spirit and their prudence suggest, in accordance with the kind of sins and the means of the penitents. In this way, they can avoid sharing in the sins of others by perhaps overlooking their sins and dealing too leniently with penitents in imposing very light works for the gravest faults. But they should be conscious that the satisfaction is not only a guardian of their new life and a medicine against weakness, but also a punishment and chastisement for their past sins. For, as the ancient Fathers believe and teach, the keys of the priests were given not for loosing alone but also for binding” (chap. 8, session 14, de poenitentia). However, a knowledge of the penitential canons will assist the confessor in getting sinners to readily accept the suitable satisfaction imposed on them. For although he should not resume the practice of those Canons, he can still use them to explain the measure of the penalties formerly laid down for these sins. The penitent as a result will both recognize the great malice of sin and gladly accept the satisfaction imposed on him, although otherwise it might have seemed too severe to him. He will do so, of course, after comparing his punishment with what he would have suffered for the same sins if he had approached a confessor in the far-off days when the penitential canons were in force, before the kind discipline of the Church softened the severity of the old Canons. This is the conclusion too of many authors outstanding for piety and doctrine. We recorded their names in in nostro Tractatu de Synodo, bk. 7, chap. 62, and think it ineffective to repeat them here. We do add, however, that the life and morals of the faithful who come to the sacrament of confession in Our day are far different from the kind of life which once won praise for glorious Agnes, renowned for her imperial rank and her pursuit of piety. For when she came to Rome to do reverence at the tombs of the Apostles, she revealed all the stains of her former life in the sacramental forum to Blessed Peter Damian, an excellent Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, and left the confessional without any satisfaction being imposed on her by a confessor so famous for his goodness and doctrine.
- Blessed Peter Damian speaks of this event in Opusculo, 56, chap. 5 in tome 3, p. 432, of his Operum (Paris edition) and treats it as an example for others. “So that those who converge on the tombs of the Apostles may imitate your holy devotion even in the secret confessional, I will affirm that you made me sit before the holy altar, and through sorrowful groans and bitter sighs you gave a faithful account of every slight and minute affection of the depths of your humanity and of every vanity in your thoughts and every superfluity in your speech. You covered your life from age five to now. In turn I decided to impose no penance beyond repeating the praise of the divine mission: ‘Do what you are doing, continue the work you are engaged in’ and the message of the Angel to those in Theatyra: ‘I will not send another burden on you, only keep what you have’ (Ap 2). For, as God is witness, I did not impose even a day’s fasting or other punishment, but I commanded you only to persevere in the holy works you had begun.”
- But in our day, on the other hand, there are many sinners (among whom We Ourselves are reckoned as no doubt were others in Blessed Peter Damian’s time) who not only in the general confession of their sins, but also in the many confessions they make each year are burdened with serious sins. So in the sacred forum of Penance they are liable to make the satisfaction which corresponds to the seriousness of the sins in accordance with the canons of the Council of Trent. This is especially important since they produce few, if any, good works if they remain in their accustomed manner of life, and do not, as they should, equably bear the pains which sometimes afflict them. Consequently they lose the richer fruit which the prayers of the Church request from God for penitents in these words: “That whatever good you do, or whatever ill you patiently endure, may be for you a remission of sins, an increase of grace, and the reward of eternal life.”
- Here then, venerable brothers, We have presented the entire list of what We have done or decreed to be done, so that all the inhabitants of Our City may receive the spiritual fruits of the Holy Year. We wish you to take the same measures so that your people who, in the coming year will undertake holy pilgrimages to this City, may obtain equal benefit and the same abundance of heavenly blessings. What We have hitherto said on the subject of pilgrims making a sacramental confession before their departure had already been decreed by the Council of Bourges in 1584: “Whosoever makes a pilgrimage to the holy places should be fortified by the due and complete confession of their sins and by the sacrament of the Eucharist before they set out” (canon 2 in Harduin, tome 10, pp. 1466f). Our predecessor Innocent XII echoes this teaching in his proclamation of the year of Jubilee in 1700; in his proclamation, he especially insists on a salutary expiation of sins, saying: “Be sanctified, therefore, most beloved sons, and prepare your hearts for the Lord. Be washed, be pure, remove your evil thoughts from God’s sight and, renewed in the spirit of your mind, be urgent in prayers, fast often, and give alms.” To prevent the conclusion that he addressed these words only to Romans, he wisely added words to include others. “Adorned furthermore with these ornaments of the Christian life, fortified with the aid of the virtues, come with confidence, impetuously and with a holy speed of spirit, to this holy city of God on earth as to the throne of grace, that you may obtain mercy.”
- We are perfectly confident that on your way to this city (provided that the ministry of your pastoral office permits it), whether on your journey or while you dwell in Rome, you will want to emulate the mode of living which St. Charles Borromeo decided to embrace on his pilgrimage to Rome for the year of Jubilee in 1575. This holy pilgrimage of the excellent prelate is described by Charles of St. Peter’s basilica, bishop of Novaria, in the third book of the History he composed on the life and deeds of St. Charles. We hope that in the course of the journey and its various stopovers, the pilgrims will not trouble the bishops there who must take watchful precautions against the development of the scandals that in times past occasioned some to speak ill of holy pilgrimages. When they arrive in Rome, We shall zealously see to it that they lead an upright and moral life, perform the prescribed works properly, visit the basilicas, and practice various acts of Christian penance. We devote great zeal and effort to ensure that all pilgrims return home, permanently improved by the example of holy living which flourishes in Rome, firm in the faith, fervent in virtue, and confirmed in their obedience to the Holy See. We share the desire of Our predecessor and fellow citizen Gregory XII as he solemnized the year of Jubilee which recurred in his time, as is clear from the annals of his reign, bk. 3, chap. 24. Now that these matters have been decided in this way, We have a firm hope that with the Lord’s help, to whom We recommend this entire affair with Our most humble prayers, the pilgrims will return to their own land undeserving of the censure with which St. Jerome insults some who had made holy pilgrimages to the city of Jerusalem. “It is not praiseworthy merely to have been in Jerusalem, but to have led a good life at Jerusalem” (in epist. 58, ad Paulinum, Operum, tome 1, p. 318, Verona edition).
- For the whole year of Jubilee, penitentiary priests and others designated to hear confessions will be available in Rome. They will be given the appropriate powers to hear penitents and grant deserved absolution and dispensation, both for those who live in Rome and those who come there from other places, to enable them to obtain the spiritual riches of the Holy Year. In this period of time preachers of the word of God will be plentiful. We shall speak Ourselves and designate others to speak also, but in so doing We shall not enter on theological controversies which involve merely the disputes of the different schools. Both We Ourselves and those who speak in Our name will be concerned with explaining clearly the force and significance of the phrasing of that section of Our Bull which refers “to the faithful who are truly repentant, have confessed their sins, and been refreshed by holy communion.” We shall likewise show by fact and examples how worthless and vain is the opinion of those exiles from the Catholic communion who falsely assert that repentance is lessened or even destroyed by the use of indulgences. Furthermore, to forestall the suspicion that We or those who preach by Our authority will adopt the stricter opinion, We will employ the same method which the renowned Father Bourdaloue of the Society of Jesus recommended and employed in his Sermon delivered just before the year of Jubilee (Sermonum, tome 2, p. 517ff, Paris 1709, 2nd edition).
In the time that We spent in Bologna, We repeatedly issued Our instructions to the people. These were first collected in several tomes and soon were gathered in one folio volume in a Latin translation. In one Instruction (tome 3, 12 of the Italian edition, no. 53 of the Latin), passing by the disputes of the theologians, We exhorted the entire people of Our diocese on the occasion of the Plenary Indulgence proclaimed by Our predecessor Clement XII, to add other works of piety to the works prescribed and to produce fruits worthy of repentance. We cited for them the golden statement of venerable Cardinal Bellarmine (Controversiarum in tractatu de Indulgentiis, tome 2, bk. 1, chap. 12, sect. 3): “Wise Christians receive Papal indulgences in their zeal to produce fruits worthy of repentance, and at the same time to make satisfaction to God for their sins.” But We also added the remark of Cardinal Pallavicinus in his in Historia Concilii Tridentini bk. 24, chap. 12, no. 6, that those are wrong who think that by using indulgences, Christians become lazy and distracted from making proper satisfaction to God who punishes our sins. Indeed since men are wholly uncertain that they have in reality obtained the fruit of indulgences, this is an added incitement for many to strengthen their hopes by renewing their practice of salutary works. Moreover the works prescribed for obtaining indulgences increase piety when they are put into practice, and as is daily experienced they introduce a new habit which enables its possessor to perform more readily the other works of virtue. Boniface VIII prescribed visits to the basilicas-fifteen times for visitors and thirty times for Romans-and made the obtaining of indulgences dependent on this work. But he did not for this reason pass over in silence the other works of virtue; rather in his occasional decretal Antiquorum, de poenitentiis, et remissionibus, which is found among his general occasional decretals, he expressly adds: “Each person, however, will merit more and will more effectively obtain an Indulgence the oftener and the more devoutly he visits the basilicas.” These words agree closely with those which We emphasized above. Those advised the faithful to practice other relevant works apart from the prescribed ones. The words of the traditional formula for a solemn blessing used by Our predecessors and Ourselves express the same meaning. For when the ceremony of blessing is completed, a Plenary indulgence is granted. Then humble prayers are also made to God to confer on the people present not only “perseverance in good works, but also a continually repentant heart,” that is, a heart duly prepared for new works of repentance to atone for past sins, even though hopefully the fault of past sins and their punishment has been remitted in the sacrament of penance, and the temporal punishment which remains has been washed away by the previously granted Indulgence.
- We read in the lives of Our Predecessors Zacharias and Paschal, by the renowned Anastasius, that several guest houses were built near the church on the Vatican, to welcome and refresh pilgrims who had come to visit the tombs of the Apostles. These buildings, either in the passage of time or by human harm have long been destroyed. But the Romans have built others in different parts of the city which are always open to pilgrims who arrive in this city to reverence the tombs of the blessed apostles and obtain the treasures of indulgences especially in a holy year of Jubilee, to supply in full measure the necessities both for bodily nourishment and spiritual refreshment with the aid of upright priests. These are the matters We judged We should indicate to you. And with the full benevolence of Our spirit We confer on you and on your whole flock the Apostolic Blessing.
Given at Castelgandolfo on the 26th of June 1749 in the ninth year of Our Pontificate.
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