An apostolic blessing or papal blessing (Benediction Papalis in Latin) is a prayer seeking for favors and protection, and a prayer of thanksgiving bestowed directly by the Pope or indirectly through a delegation. It honors special celebrations in the life of a baptized Catholic faithful. It should not be confused with a pontifical or an episcopal blessing given by a bishop at the end of a eucharist. The apostolic blessing can be written as a letter or in a parchment scroll or in a solemn blessing: Urbi et Orbi, “to the City and to the World,” on a papal address. A bishop can impart an apostolic blessing only three times per year on solemn occasions; a priest can deliver this blessing to a dying baptized faithful.
An apostolic blessing may be granted on the following occasions:
- Baptism, first communion, confirmation
- Ordination of priests
- Entering a religious profession
- Secular consecration
- Ordinations of permanent deacons
- Anniversaries of marriage, ordination of priests, entrance to religious professions (10, 25, 40, 50, 60 years). This requires the approval of an ecclesiastical authority.
- Birthdays (18, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100). This requires the approval of an ecclesiastical authority.
- Catholic individuals or families (with names of the spouses united in a religious marriage).
Applying for an apostolic blessing
There are two ways to apply for an apostolic blessing. You can submit a request form directly to the The Office of the Papal Charities in Vatican City. The office is open from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday. You can also mail or fax the request form to the Elemosinera Apostolica Parchment Office, 00120 Vatican City or telefax number (+39) 06.69883132. Note that request by email and telephone is not available. The time required for receiving the parchment is approximately one month from the date when the request is received.
The request form should include the following details:
- The name, surname, and address of the person making the request
- The name and surname of the person(s) for whom the blessing is being requested
- The reason or occasion prompting the request
- The date, the name of the church and the address of the church are all required when the blessing is requested for the celebration of a sacrament, a religious profession, or an anniversary
- The address of where to send the parchment and payment details
Payments can be made after the receipt of the papal blessing. It can be done via bank transfer or via an online credit card payment in the website. Bank details will be sent in the same parcel as the parchment. The cost of the parchment ranges from 13 to 25 euros, depending on the model chosen by the office for specific occasions. The postage cost will depend on the destination, but it can range from 10 to 16 euros for normal postage and 18 to 30 euros for express couriers.
An indulgence “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 through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints.” It is attached to the apostolic blessing imparted by the Pope.
The Pope or others authorized by the Pope can grant a plenary indulgence when he bestows apostolic blessing during the Urbi et Orbi blessing in Rome, or at certain events and masses.
There are certain prescribed conditions to receipt of plenary indulgence:
- It is necessary that the receiver be in a “state of grace,” at least at the time the indulgence work is completed: One must be Catholic, not excommunicated nor under schism with the Church.
- The plenary indulgence can only be received once a day, only with the condition that, being in a “state of grace,” the receiver:
- Has a personal disposition of “complete detachment from sin, even venial sin”
- Has “sacramentally confessed” all sins
- Has “receive[d] the Holy Eucharist” [It is highly recommended to receive the host while participating in the Mass, but for indulgence, only Communion is required.]
- Must “pray for the intentions” of the Pope
- It is appropriate but not necessary that all the prescribed conditions above take place on the same day that indulgence is performed. These rites and prayers may be done within 20 days after the indulgence act.
- On the Prayer for the Pope’s intention, the receiver can choose any prayer, but an “Our Father” and “Hail Mary” are suggested.
- One sacramental confession is enough for several plenary indulgences, but a separate communion and prayer for the Pope’s intention are required for each plenary indulgence act.
- For those who are “legitimately impeded,” the confessors can commute both the work prescribed and the conditions required (except, obviously, detachment from even venial sin).
- Indulgences can always be applied either to oneself or to the souls of the deceased, but cannot be applied to another who is living.
The plenary indulgence is also effective when heard or seen via radio or telecast.
____, Catechism of the Catholic Church (n. 1471)
____, Code of Canon Law (can. 992)
____, “Office of the Papal Charities”, The Holy See, Retrieved on 12 January 2015 from http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/institutions_connected/elem_apost/documents/rc_elemosineria_doc_20130218_benedizioni_en.html.
___, “Plenary Indulgence – General Conditions,” EWTN Website. Accessed on January 12, 2014 from https://www.ewtn.com/Devotionals/mercy/general_conditions.htm
Armentrout, Donald S. and Robert Boak Slocum, An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church: A User-Friendly Reference for Episcopalians. New York: Church Publishing, Inc., 2000.
 Code of Canon Law (can. 992) and the Catechism of the Catholic Church (n. 1471)