In this photo from last January, Cardinal Donald Wuerl blesses a family during the Youth Rally and Mass for Life before the annual March for Life. (CS PHOTO BY JACLYN LIPPELMANN)
In this photo from last January, Cardinal Donald Wuerl blesses a family during the Youth Rally and Mass for Life before the annual March for Life. (CS PHOTO BY JACLYN LIPPELMANN)

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, and Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, have issued a joint letter announcing that a plenary indulgence can be obtained by the faithful who “take part in the sacred celebrations, along with the great assembly of people, throughout the whole course of the annual event that is called ‘March for Life.’ “

The letter is dated Dec. 20 and addressed to Cardinal Wuerl’s and Bishop Burbidge’s “brother bishops” across the nation.

“We bring this to your attention in the hope that you will share this information with those entrusted to your pastoral care, and who may be traveling to Washington, D.C. to participate in March for Life activities this January,” the churchmen wrote in their letter.

The 45th annual March for Life is Jan. 19, 2018.

A plenary indulgence, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (No. 1471) is “a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions.”

To gain a plenary indulgence, one must go to Confession, receive Holy Communion and pray for the intentions of the pope.

Cardinal Wuerl and Bishop Burbidge noted in their letter that ““the aged, sick and all those who due to grave reason are not able to leave home” to attend the March for Life can receive the plenary indulgence. They must meet the conditions – Confession, Communion and prayers for the pope – as well as “having offered prayers and their sufferings or the ailments of their own life to the merciful God.”

The “sacred celebrations” associated with the March for Life include the annual Youth Rally and Mass for Life and the Adult and Family Rally and Mass for Life sponsored by the Archdiocese of Washington. The youth rally and Mass will be held Jan. 19 beginning at 6:45 a.m. at the Capital One Arena (formerly known as the Verizon Center) in Washington. Cardinal Wuerl will be the main celebrant at the Mass for Life. Tickets have been distributed for the rally and Mass. For more information, visit http://youthrallyandmassforlife.org.

The adult and family rally begins at 8:30 a.m. on Jan. 19 at St. Matthew’s Cathedral. The main celebrant for that Mass will be Washington Auxiliary Bishop Mario Dorsonville, and the homilist will be Msgr. Robert Panke, the rector of the archdiocese’s Saint John Paul II Seminary and the director of priest formation for the archdiocese. For more information, visit http://adw.org/familyrally.

In addition, the National Prayer Vigil for Life will be held from 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 18 until 7:30 a.m. on to Jan. 19 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. For more information, visit www.nationalshrine.com.

The 45th annual March for Life, with the theme “Love Saves Lives,” will begin on the National Mall between Madison Drive and Jefferson Drive at 11:30 a.m. Jan. 19 with a musical opening, followed by the rally program at noon. The march up Constitution Avenue to the Supreme Court and the U.S. Capitol will begin at 1 p.m. Due to heightened security, marchers are encouraged to be in place for the rally before 10:30 a.m.

“May the efforts of all across this great nation to lift up the value and dignity of each human life continue to bear fruit, and may we all experience God’s blessings in this noble undertaking,” Cardinal Wuerl and Bishop Burbidge wrote in their letter.

The letter noted that the announced conditions for the plenary indulgence had been issued “in virtue of the authority granted by our Holy Father, Pope Francis, to Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, the Major Penitentiary of the Catholic Church.”