The Apostolic Pardon – Fathers, do you know it?

My recent posting about the question on administration of the sacrament of anointing led to some interesting comments.  Someone mentioned the Apostolic Pardon, or Apostolic Benediction.

It is critically important that you – as a person who is going to die one day – know what this is.

It is vitally important that you – as a person whose loved ones and friends will die one day – know what this is.

It is fundamentally important that priests – as God’s ministers of pardon and the gatekeepers of heaven – know what this is so that they can give it.

The Apostolic Pardon, or Benediction, forgives temporal punishment due to our sins.  If anything remains from our lives, provided we die in the state of grace, for which we have not done adequate penance is forgiven us through the Apostolic Pardon.

The older form of the Apostolic Blessing:

Ego facultate mihi ab Apostolica Sede tributa, indulgentiam plenariam et remissionem omnium peccatorum tibi concedo et benedico te. In nomine Patris, et Filii, + et Spirtus Sancti, Amen. … By the faculty given to me by the Apostolic See, I grant you a plenary indulgence and the remission of all your sins, and I bless you. In the Name of the Father and the Son + and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

In the newer form I think the words "et benedico te" were removed.

When it comes to forms of Anointing, Penance and the Apostolic Pardon, I always use Latin. 

This is a marvelous faculty, given by Holy Church to the priest so that he can grant this remission of temporal punishment and forgive sins.  Used in conjunction with the Last Rites, confession, anointing, and Viaticum, a soul is well prepared to go on to judgment.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Ray from MN says:

    Those words should be printed on the back of my “I am a Catholic; in case of emergency please call a priest” card.

  2. Liam says:

    What’s also important for laity to understand that this indulgence is unique, because the condition for it is that they have been in the habit of reciting some prayers during their lifetime, and this condition substitutes for the three usual conditions required for the gaining of a plenary indulgence (including the detachment from sin condition that bedevils the scrupulous).

  3. Sean says:

    Liam or anyone else,

    What prayers must one say to predispose themself for the Apostolic Benediction?

  4. Maureen says:

    “in the habit of reciting some prayers”? What does that mean?

    Every day? Once a year? And as the commenter above asked, what prayers?

    I have a feeling the answer is “as long as you haven’t been giving God the silent treatment your whole life”, but inquiring minds would like to know!

  5. Dominic says:

    Father, please excuse my ignorance, but does this mean that one escapes purgatory? Similarly, when one applies a plenary indulgence to someone who has died, does this mean that if the person is still in purgatory they are released?

  6. Liam says:


    The perennial Catholic temptation to quantify or formulate the mystery of how we are saved fails here. God’s grace is precisely that, grace. The workers hired in the evening can be saved on the same terms as those hired in the morning – God’s terms, not ours.

    The appropriate balance to this may be to consider Christ’s question to Peter after the Resurrection as one we may well be asked when we encounter Him: “Do you love Me?”

    Virtue can help us to become more inclined to say, “Yes, Lord”, but virtue is no guarantor, and we know from Christian history of people who lived lives fairly bereft of virtue only to show heroic love at the end of their lives.

    This is why moralism can never substitute for theosis. Protestant theologies – and American culture influenced by them – tend to neglect this, which is more than ironic given how they started with the cry of sola gratia….

  7. Liam says:

    Bottom line:

    If you have not done so – and many do not, because their life of prayer is unremittingly dry, and most American Catholics are not well formed in how to deal with spiritual dryness – get in the habit of prayer. Not because it will make you feel any better or closer to God (it might, it might not). But to offer an opportunity for God to speak to you when and if He chooses. It may be many times, it may be once, it may be never. But it is a radical act of faith, hope and love to offer anyway.

    In the lovely words of the Universal Prayer (I can think of few better short prayers, btw): I want to do what You ask of me: in the way You ask, for as long as You ask, because You ask.

    “Because You ask” – so many relationships would be enriched by keeping this inclination at the forefront of our hearts.

  8. Cathy Dawson says:

    From The Handbook of Indulgences –

    “Priests who minister the sacraments to the Christian faithful who are in a life-and-death situation should not neglect to impart to them the apostolic blessing, with its attached indulgence. But if a priest cannot be present, holy mother Church lovingly grants such persons who are rightly disposed a plenary indulgence to be obtained in articulo mortis, at the approach of death, provided they regularly prayed in some way during their lifetime. The use of a crucifix or cross is recommended in obtaining this plenary indulgence.

    In such a situation the three usual conditions required in order to gain a plenary indulgence are substituted for by the condition ‘provided they regularly prayed in some way.'”

    I’m not sure what “rightly disposed” means. Having a desire to receive the indulgence? In a state of grace?

  9. Aelric says:

    But if a priest cannot be present, holy mother Church lovingly grants such persons who are rightly disposed a plenary indulgence to be obtained in articulo mortis, at the approach of death, provided they regularly prayed in some way during their lifetime. The use of a crucifix or cross is recommended in obtaining this plenary indulgence.

    By coincidence, my wife and I were watching Scarlet and the Black last night. In this movie, is a scene where Gregory Peck, playing Monsignor O’Flaherty, disguises himself as an SD (not waffen-SS) major to visit a captured and tortured priest. When O’Flaherty tells the priest (Vittorio) that he’s come to hear his confession, Vitorrio responds that he’s already made his confession and points to a rough scratched cross on the wall above his cot. I had wondered about this scene since (correct me if wrong) priests cannot absolve themselves, but the citation quoted above by Cathy makes me wonder if this dramatic moment was in fact the Apostolic Pardon in articulo mortis?

  10. Father,

    You mentioned that in administering the Sacraments of Annointing, Penance and in giving the Apostolic Pardon you use Latin. I am a priest who would like to start doing the same. In your experience how do people accept it? It seems to me that most Catholics expect the vernacular and might be put off by the Latin, thus I would like to know your experience, and hear any advise you would have for me in how to introduce such a practice.

  11. Fr W says:

    I would like to know the opinion of other priests on the conditions under which they would impart the pardon. I encounter many very ill patients. Presently, I impart the blessing if I think they might die before I would return to see them. The clear ‘finality’ of the prayer makes me reluctant to use it when the person’s mind is on recovery, not preparation for death.

  12. Mila says:

    Is this Apostolic Pardon/Benediction the same as one would obtain from a Papal Blessing? I remember as child my family had a framed Papal Blessing someone had obtained for them after a trip to Rome, the text of which (roughly translated from Spanish) read something like: “humbly beseech you to impart the Apostolic Benediction and plenary indulgence “in articulo mortis” provided that, if unable to go to confession and receive communion, they pronounce with lps or heart the most Holy Name of Jesus”.
    My husband and I were given a Papal Blessing as a present from our bishop when we were married 40 years ago, but it does not contain the same language as the one my parents had. Would the blessing be the same even if the language is not as specific? A response would be appreciated, as my husband is not invery good health and I would like us to be prepared.

  13. PMcGrath says:

    Just to be clear, a question: Every priest can impart the Apostolic Pardon? You don’t have to get a specific letter from Rome or from the local chancery saying that you can impart it?

  14. Fr. Angel says:

    Fr. W:

    Patients have suddenly died on me who looked fine the day before. In the following situations I have given Annointing and the Apostolic Pardon: Before operations where there is general anesthesia, elderly patients with flu, diagnosis of a terminal condition even where death does not appear to be imminent, infections which reach the stage of sepsis, and accidents where there is a possibility the patient may die, even if they are not in ICU.

    In any case where the doctor tells the family “it doesn’t look good” I also administer both.

    PMcGrath: Priests are granted by canon law the faculty to administer the Apostolic Pardon.

  15. RC says:

    Here are some references about the authorization:

    Canon 530 (3) grants pastors of parishes the authority to confer the apostolic blessing (and therefore its associated plenary indulgence) on those in danger of death; canon 543 extends the authority to other priests to whom parish ministry is entrusted.

    The Handbook of Indulgences (section: “At the approach of death”) exhorts all priests ministering to the dying to confer the indulgence, and (important:) relaxes the usual conditions on the penitent.

  16. John Wiechkoske says:

    I was with my father before he passed away and the priest annoited him and granted him the apostolic blessing. I have taken great consolation in the fact of my father recieveing this great blessing of the church. I am hopeful that when my last hour arrives i may be as blessed.

  17. Fr W says:

    Fr. Angel,
    Thanks for your comments. It has now occurred to me to take a cue from Fr. Z and even in cases where the person seems to not be in immediate danger, to give the Apostolic Blessing in Latin. I already did that today. Thanks again.

  18. sacertodale says:

    Fr. Z:

    QUESTION: There is a reference in the prayer to “faculties.” What about a priest whose faculties are suspended, as in a priest who has been laicized? Would such a priest have the faculties/ability to grant the Apostolic Pardon (perhaps by virtue of the law)? How about a priest of a particular church not in union with Rome, but with valid ordination (i.e., Greek Orthodox or Polish National Catholic Church). Would they have the ability to grant the Apostolic Pardon, i.e., if they were the only priest available to a dying Catholic?

  19. Fr. W: I don’t think I suggested that the Apostolic Pardon should be used outside of the condition of danger of death.

  20. sacerdotale: In the case of danger of death, any validly ordained priest – in active ministry or not – is given the faculty automatically by the Church, because of the grave circumstances, to absolve from sins and to give the Apostolic Pardon. This is the case even when another priest, one in good standing, is present. The person might prefer the one to the other.

  21. Dominic says:

    Can I please ask my question again:

    Father, please excuse my ignorance, but does the Apostolic Pardon mean that one escapes purgatory? Similarly, when one applies a plenary indulgence to someone who has died, does this mean that if the person is still in purgatory they are released?

  22. TJ says:

    Dear Father,

    Can this pardon be administered without the priest being with the person? I’m thinking of those priests, particularly the traditional ones whose parishioners often come from great distances, who may be reluctant or unable to travel a long way for a prayer that takes only a moment to say. I’m sure it would be an enormous comfort to all of us to know that, like Jesus and the centurion, the priest can bestow the pardon upon request regardless of where he is.

  23. rosebudsal says:

    Interesting timing, on Sunday, our priest actually talked about the Apostolic Pardon as well. He shared his reflections in his homily.

    I know this isn’t adding much to the discussion but it always makes me pause when I see just how wonderful the Church is with the sacraments, traditions and rituals we all are blessed to have.

    Maria S.

  24. RC says:

    Dear Fr. Z.,

    There was an omission in my previous comment (12:36 p.m.)

    In addition to citing canon 543, I should have cited 548. c. 543 defines the duties and rights of priests in a “team” pastorate; c. 548 defines the duties and rights of parochial vicars.

    Not that it matters: the reference in the Handbook of Indulgences is probably enough by itself to give all priests the authority to confer the apostolic blessing and plenary indulgence to those in danger of death.

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