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Plenary indulgence given for visits to World Heritage churches


November 27 2009

Catholic visitors to two World Heritage churches in one of Asia´s oldest dioceses can now gain plenary indulgences.


St. Anthony's Church, one of two
World Heritage churches in Macau

St. Anthony´s Church and the Chapel of St. Joseph´s Seminary are the first two churches granted this privilege since Bishop Jose Lai Hung-seng headed the 433-year-old Macau diocese six years ago.

The "Catechism of the Catholic Church" defines a plenary indulgence as full "remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven."

To gain a plenary indulgence, one must fulfill certain conditions such as making a sacramental confession, receiving Communion and praying for the Pope´s intentions.

Bishop Lai told UCA News that both St. Anthony´s Church and the seminary chapel keep relics of saints and attract many pilgrims and visitors every year. Both buildings are part of what is known as the "Historic Centre of Macau" and have been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 2005.

"I hope pilgrims can obtain an indulgence for their spiritual benefit, and not just sightsee, take photos and then leave," Bishop Lai said.

The prelate has made the request twice to the Holy See´s Apostolic Penitentiary, which is in charge of the issuance and governance of indulgences. The diocesan Chinese weekly, "Aurora," recently announced Pope Benedict XVI´s granting of the indulgences.

Visitors to these churches will be able to obtain the plenary indulgences for the next seven years.

Anna Leong Yung-keng of the diocesan pilgrimage service office told UCA News Nov. 24 her staff will be planning how to serve the needs of pilgrims who wish to obtain the plenary indulgence. Her office offers tour services and guides for pilgrimage groups.


Visitors to this Chapel of St. Joseph's
Seminary can also gain plenary indulgences

The seminary chapel was first built in 1758 and has been repaired twice. It holds relics of Saint Francis Xavier (1506-1552), a co-founder of the Society of Jesus and a pioneering Jesuit missioner to Asia.

Though the saint did not go to Macau, Jesuits after him established the seminary to nurture missioners to China and Southeast Asia, Bishop Lai noted.

Saint Anthony´s Church was built in 1638 and then rebuilt twice in the 19th century. It contains the relics of Saint Andrew Kim Tae-gon (1821-1846), the first Korean-born Catholic priest, and Saint Magdalene of Canossa (1774-1835), founder of the Canossian Daughters of Charity.

Saint Andrew Kim studied in the seminary in the former Portuguese colony before he was ordained a priest in Shanghai in 1845. He then returned to Korea to preach the Gospel and was beheaded the following year.