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Many people have sent email asking about obtaining indulgences during the time when the See of Peter is empty, as will happen from 8 p.m. Rome time on 28 February until a new Bishop of Rome is elected.
To obtain some indulgences we are to pray for the Holy Father’s intentions (that is, the intentions that the Holy Father designates that we pray for).
QUAERITUR: If there is no Pope, how do we pray for the Pope’s intentions?
This question came up in 2005, after the death of John Paul II.
First, YES! The faithful are able to obtain plenary indulgences during the “Sede Vacante” time, where there is no Pope.
As a matter of fact, the Church holds matters of internal forum and of indulgences to be so important for the faithful that the office of the Major Penitentiary (who oversees these matters for the Apostolic Penitentiary) is one of the few that does not cease when the Pope dies or resigns. I digress.
So, yes, you can obtain indulgences during the “Sede Vacante” period.
Moreover, back in 2005 the Apostolic Penitentiary responded to a question about these matters, saying:
Even though the Apostolic See is vacant, the conditions of praying for the intention of the Supreme Pontiff are fulfilled (by reciting once the “Our Father” and the “Hail Mary” once; nevertheless, the opportunity is also given to the individual faithful to recite another prayer which pleases them according to the piety and devotion of each one), even if he has fulfilled the duty of his life, since the ends of the Pope’s intention, the ends for which one must pray–undoubtedly the spiritual good of the whole Church — persist.
So, continue to pray for the intentions designated by Benedict XVI for March 2013, which were issued at the beginning of the year, namely,
GENERAL – Respect for Nature. That respect for nature may grow with the awareness that all creation is God’s work entrusted to human responsibility.
MISSIONARY – Clergy. That bishops, priests, and deacons may be tireless messengers of the Gospel to the ends of the earth.
If, quod Deus avertat, there is still no election by the end of March, then pray for the intentions Benedict XVI designated for April, etc.
Furthermore, while it is possible, it is unlikely that the next Pope will scratch Benedict’s designated intentions for the rest of the year. More than likely they will persist until the end of the year when he will draw up and issue his own.
To emphasize the postive point, above, Vatican Information Service published on 28 February, as usual, the Holy Father’s intentions for March 2013. HERE.