Ask an Apologist: Can you get an indulgence if there’s no pope to pray for?
By James Cavanagh
Q. One of the requirements for satisfying a plenary indulgence is to pray for the intentions of the pope. What do we do when we don’t have a pope? Can you still get the indulgence?
A. The operative word here is “intentions.” To satisfy the requirements of the indulgence one must pray for the intentions of the pope. Pope Benedict XVI relinquishes the chair of Peter as of Feb. 28 but his intentions remain until new ones are proposed. The pope’s intentions for the month of February are: “That migrant families, especially the mothers, may be supported and accompanied in their difficulties” and “That the people at war and in conflict may lead the way in building a peaceful future.”
At his audience on Feb. 13, the Holy Father asked us to continue praying for him, the Church and the future pope. Praying for those things would also fulfill the requirements for the indulgence. Note: when a pope issues a teaching like an apostolic exhortation, those teachings don’t go away even if the pope does. The pope’s intentions are, as it were, deposited in the spiritual “treasury” of the Church. The goals of his intentions belong to the spiritual goods of the Church, therefore they persist even when the see of Peter is vacant.
James Cavanagh is director of Evangelization and Catechesis for metro-area parishes of the Denver Archdiocese.