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Vatican grants plenary indulgence for St. Thomas Aquinas jubilee celebrations

The lunette of a side door depicting St. Thomas Aquinas, detail of the facade of the Church of Santa Maria Novella in Florence, Italy. / Credit: Zvonimir Atletic/Shutterstock

Vatican City, Jul 15, 2023 / 09:00 am (CNA).

The Vatican is granting a plenary indulgence to anyone who participates in the two years of jubilee celebrations of St. Thomas Aquinas leading up to the 800th anniversary of his birth.

Beginning with the 700th anniversary of Aquinas’ canonization on July 18, the Dominican Order is celebrating three significant anniversaries of “the Angelic Doctor” during the jubilee.

Aquinas was canonized as a saint on July 18, 1323, by Pope John XXII. The Church will mark this 700th anniversary next Tuesday with a Mass at 6:30 p.m. in Fossanova Abbey, the abbey about 60 miles south of Rome where Aquinas died. Pope Francis has designated Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, the prefect of the Vatican’s saints office, as his special envoy for the Mass.

Aerial view of Fossanova Abbey located in Priverno, in the province of Latina, Italy. Credit: Stefano Tammaro/Shutterstock

On March 7, 2024, the Church will commemorate the 750th anniversary of Aquinas’ death. The theologian died in 1274 while on his way to the Council of Lyons. He fell ill during the journey and stopped at the Cistercian abbey of Fossanova. 

Three months before he died, Aquinas experienced an intense revelation while offering Mass when he was nearly finished with his most significant work, the “Summa Theologiae” or “Summary of Theology.” After experiencing this revelation, Aquinas told his friend and secretary Brother Reginald: “The end of my labors has come. All that I have written appears to be as so much straw after the things that have been revealed to me,” and he never wrote again.

Aquinas’ body was kept in Fossanova Abbey until the end of the 14th century when his relics were moved to Toulouse, France, where the Order of Preachers was founded and where Aquinas’ tomb can be venerated today in the Church of the Jacobins.

The Dominican Order’s double jubilee year will culminate on the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas on Jan. 28, 2025, the 800th anniversary of Aquinas’ birth.

Aquinas was born in 1225 in the Italian town of Roccasecca, about 75 miles southeast of Rome, which at the time was part of the Kingdom of Sicily.

Pope Francis issued a letter in Latin earlier this week praising Aquinas for his “great spiritual and human wisdom.”

“He shined with righteous intelligence and clearness, and while reverently investigating the divine mysteries with reason, he contemplated them with fervent faith,” the pope wrote. 

How to get the indulgence

The indulgence can be obtained by making a pilgrimage to a holy site connected to the Dominican Order to either take part in the jubilee celebrations or “at least devote a suitable time to pious recollection,” concluding by praying the Lord’s Prayer, reciting the Creed, and invoking the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Thomas Aquinas.

Any church, shrine, or chapel currently entrusted to the Dominican Order can meet the requirements for the pilgrimage.

According to a decree from the Vatican’s Apostolic Penitentiary, the plenary indulgence is available to “the truly penitent and charitable faithful” under the usual conditions.

The usual conditions for a plenary indulgence require the individual to be in a state of grace, have complete detachment from sin, and pray for the pope’s intentions.

The person must also sacramentally confess his or her sins and receive Communion up to about 20 days before or after the prayers for the indulgence.

The Apostolic Penitentiary said that the indulgence can also be applied “to the souls of the faithful departed still in purgatory.”

An indulgence is defined by the Catechism of the Catholic Church as “a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven.”

The elderly, the sick, and those unable to leave their homes for any serious reason can also obtain the plenary indulgence “if, despising all their sins and with the intention of fulfilling the three usual conditions as soon as possible, they spiritually join in the Jubilee celebrations in front of an image of St. Thomas Aquinas, offering to the merciful God their prayers as well as the sorrows and ills of their lives.”

The indulgence can be obtained up until St. Thomas Aquinas’ jubilee ends on Jan. 28, 2025. 

“May our celebration of the double jubilee in the life of St. Thomas propel us to serve God and the Church with great dedication and profound humility,” wrote Father Gerard Francisco Timoner III, the master of the Dominican Order.

The Dominican master recalled how Aquinas told Brother Reginald “to seek no reward in this world except to be with God — Domine, non nisi Te, ‘Lord, nothing but you.’”

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