STEUBENVILLE - The tiny Portiuncula Chapel at Franciscan University of Steubenville has been designated by the Vatican as a place where the faithful can receive a plenary indulgence - an elimination of the temporal punishment due to sin.
The special designation comes in the form of a decree recently issued by the Vatican office of the Apostolic Penitentiary.
The Rev. Terence Henry, T.O.R., university president, called the announcement "an extraordinarily gracious act by the Holy See that will provide an abundant outpouring of God's mercy on the thousands of people who visit the Portiuncula Chapel every year."
The decree holds special significance because of its reference to the pro-life movement and because it is not limited to a single day in the year, as is the case with many plenary indulgences.
According to the decree, the indulgence may be obtained at any of five times during the year: Aug. 2, the feast of Our Lady of the Angels of the Portiuncula; Oct. 4, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi; Jan. 22, the dedication of the Tomb of the Unborn Child located next to the Portiuncula; and on any day during the year of a person's choosing or while completing a "holy pilgrimage" to the Portiuncula with a group.
The plenary indulgence decree was issued by the Office of the Apostolic Penitentiary, which is under the direction of James Francis Cardinal Stafford, the former archbishop of Denver. The request for the decree came through the office of Bishop R. Daniel Conlon of the Diocese of Steubenville in recognition of the Portiuncula's history as a beloved place of prayer and eucharistic adoration.
Completed in 1987, the Portiuncula, or "Port" as it is called by students, is a replica of one of the first churches near Assisi that St. Francis repaired after Jesus commissioned him to "Go, rebuild my Church." During academic semesters, many students go to the Portiuncula for eucharistic adoration, which is offered 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The Vatican decree went into effect on Feb. 11 and will remain in effect for seven years.
Conlon officially will promulgate the decree April 24 at the Portiuncula Chapel.
"We are excited that residents in the Ohio Valley can receive this indulgence without traveling far," said Henry.
"We know our students, faculty, staff, the thousands of visitors who come here each summer for retreats and conferences, our graduates who return for alumni events, parents and prospective students and many others will take part in the special graces now available to them here," said Henry.