Pope Francis grants plenary indulgence for participants in virtual March For Life

March for Life 2018 The 45th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., Jan. 19, 2018./ Jonah McKeown/CNA.

Pope Francis has granted a plenary indulgence for those who take part in this year’s March for Life, an annual peaceful protest against abortion, which is set to take place virtually Jan. 29. 

An indulgence is the remission of the temporal punishment due to sins which have already been forgiven. 

The usual conditions for a plenary indulgence, which must be met, are that the individual be in the state of grace by the completion of the acts, have complete detachment from sin, and pray for the Pope's intentions

The person must also sacramentally confess their sins and receive Communion, up to about twenty days before or after the indulgenced act.

The organizers of the March for Life— which normally attracts hundreds of thousands of pro-life protestors to Washington D.C.— announced Jan. 15 that the 48th annual demonstration would be virtual due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and risk of unrest in the nation’s capital. 

Organizers said participants will be able to follow the march and participate virtually on its website.

The march, which organizers describe as the world’s largest annual human rights demonstration, takes place every year on or near Jan. 22, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

The National Prayer Vigil for Life, held annually the night before the march at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, will take place this year on Thursday, Jan. 28. The Mass for Life will be celebrated on Jan. 29 at the Cathedral of Saint Matthew in Washington D.C. The events will have limited attendance and follow local restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, the Vatican’s Major Penitentiary, announced this year’s indulgence Jan. 13, before the announcement that the march would be virtual. 

In past years, those unable to attend the march in person such as “the aged, sick and all those who due to grave reason are not able to leave home” have also been able to receive the plenary indulgence, so long as they “spiritually join themselves to the holy ceremonies, while also having offered prayers and their sufferings or the ailments of their own life to the merciful God.”

March for Life President Jeanne Mancini told CNA that in-person attendance will be confined to a small number of pro-life leaders who will represent the movement.

A representative for the March for Life told CNA that this small group of pro-life leaders will carry roses with them, which they will leave at the Supreme Court, in honor of the lives lost to abortion.

In addition to the national March for Life, the pro-life organization sponsors local marches in various states, some of which are taking place after and some on the same day as the national March. 

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