Vatican grants indulgence to mark Celestine Year

On behalf of Pope Benedict XVI, the Apostolic Penitentiary has granted a special plenary indulgence to those who pray before the remains of St Celestine V during the year dedicated to him.

The Celestine Year began on Friday, with an opening ceremony by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Pope's secretary of state, in L'Aquila, Italy, a town struck by an earthquake last April.

This jubilee year, which closes on 29 August 2010, celebrates the 800th birthday of the Pope. Born as Pietro Angeleri da Morrone in 1209, he was elected Pontiff in 1294, and died in 1296.

Celestine V, a monk and hermit who founded the Celestine Order in the Abruzzi region, Italy, is known for voluntarily resigning from ministry as the Bishop of Rome, after only five months of his pontificate.

He resigned in order to return to the life of a hermit, naming as his motivations: 'the desire for humility, for a purer life, for a stainless conscience, the deficiencies of his own physical strength, his ignorance, the perverseness of the people, his longing for the tranquility of his former life.'

Celestine V was imprisoned by his successor, Pope Boniface VIII, and he died a few months later.

His remains will be on pilgrimage during this year throughout the dioceses of the region where people were affected by the quake, so that the faithful, having fulfilled the other requirements, can receive the indulgence.

Now a saint, Celestine V is also remembered for promulgating the 'perdonanza' [pardon]. It began shortly after he was elected as Pope, and arrived in L'Aquila where he was crowned on 29  August.

As a gift to all the people, he decided that those who confessed and were sincerely repentant, and visited the Basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio in that city, between August 28 and August 29, would receive the remission of sins and the absolution of punishment.

Until then, a plenary indulgence was only granted to those who went to the Holy Land as crusaders and to pilgrims who visited the Portincula of Assisi.

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