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St. Francis, Nativity scenes, and plenary indulgences: Check this out!

Nativity Scene

Alexander Hoffmann | Shutterstock

J-P Mauro - published on 11/28/23

All one must do to qualify for a plenary indulgence is visit a Franciscan church and pray before the Nativity scene they have erected.
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In celebration of 800 years since the Church approved of the Rule of St. Francis, the Franciscan Family has requested and received a unique way for Catholics to get a plenary indulgence. From December 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, until February 2, the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus, Catholics can be granted a plenary indulgence if they pray before a Nativity scene at a Franciscan church. 

[Learn about plenary indulgences with our handy primer: part one and part two.]

In April, the Franciscan Family – a body that represents all religious groups inspired by the charism of St. Francis – appealed to Pope Francis to allow plenary indulgences in celebration of their octocentenary. In the appeal, the Franciscans wrote that the offer of plenary indulgences would act “in order to promote the spiritual renewal of the faithful and increase the life of grace.” 

On October 4, the Franciscan Family announced that the Holy See had “favorably welcomed the request.”

They wrote: 

“Therefore, in all the churches entrusted to us for pastoral care, it will be possible for all the faithful to receive a plenary indulgence, under the usual conditions, from 8 December 2023 to 2 February 2024.”

The Franciscan Family went on to invite all Catholics to share in this “privilege” in any Franciscan church. These Franciscan churches, the group notes, continue the “special relationship that was established between St. Francis and the Church when he asked the Pope for the Indulgence for those who visited the Porziuncola.”

All one must do to qualify for a plenary indulgence is visit a Franciscan church and pray before the Nativity scene. In order to facilitate plenary indulgences, all Franciscan nativities will remain standing until the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus, February 2, rather than the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6. 

The bishops made it clear that even those who are physically unable to visit a Franciscan church could still be eligible for a plenary indulgence. They wrote: 

“Likewise, those who are sick or unable to participate physically can equally benefit from the gift of plenary indulgence, offering their sufferings to the Lord or carrying out practices of piety.”

Those who intend to seek a plenary indulgence can find the location of a Franciscan-affiliated church near them on a convenient, interactive map on the Secular Franciscan website. Along with the map, the website provides a listing of Franciscan regions of the USA, as well as contact information for each region. Click here to find a Franciscan church near you.

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