1. Our salvation was accomplished when Our Lord Jesus Christ by His passion and death rescued men from their ancient slavery to sin and gave them life and freedom as sons of God, coheirs of His own glory. As an additional benefit He has given them a means of expiating sin when by the weakness of their nature and their own wickedness they wretchedly abandon their excellent state as heirs of God. By giving to the Prince of the Apostles the power of forgiving sins together with the keys of the heavenly kingdom, He made it possible for sinners to be restored to their former righteousness and to receive the fruits of redemption.
2. Since this is the only way for sinners to recover divine grace and salvation, the successors of Saint Peter have made it their chief concern to summon all men to this fountain of mercy. They have done this by offering the promise of forgiveness to the repentant and by encouraging sinners by every means to seek remission.
Although this has been a constant concern of their Apostolic ministry, they also wanted to establish some especially suitable times for summoning sinners to repentance. In this way, they could make available to all the treasure of indulgence entrusted to their keeping. Accordingly, so as not to deprive any generation of the great benefit of propitiation, they decided to celebrate every twenty-five years a holy year of jubilee, a year of forgiveness and grace. They established this merciful refuge in this holy city. We follow this salutary custom in announcing that the year which is now approaching will be a Holy Year. We urge you to effect salvation for your souls by utilizing the aids which are available for your sanctification. We shall unlock all the riches of mercy proceeding from the blood of Christ which have been entrusted to Our dispensing. Moreover We shall open for you the rich store of satisfaction formed by the merits of the most holy mother of God and the apostles, by the blood of the martyrs and by the virtuous actions of all good men; this will render peace and forgiveness more accessible. For assuredly, as we are gathered together in the one body of the Church which is the Body of Christ, we are joined with the illustrious society and communion of the saints. All of us are cleansed and made alive by the blood of Christ, and we can benefit each other. For Christ has desired that His great love and mercy and the infinite force of His passion and merits should be made more resplendent by the addition of the other parts of His mystical body. In this way men should be helped both by reciprocal action among themselves and by the sharing of benefits flowing from that source of grace. Then God would be moved to show clemency to us for the sake of His Son’s goodness and the infinite value of His blood, as well as by the merits of the saints and by prayerful petition.
So We summon you to share in this richness of indulgence, in these treasures of the Church. In accordance with traditional practice, and in agreement with the cardinals, by the authority of Almighty God, of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul, and of Ourselves, for the glory of God, the exaltation of the Catholic Church and the sanctification of the entire Christian people, We proclaim and promulgate that the great universal jubilee of the Holy Year is to be celebrated in Rome next year, 1775, beginning at first Vespers on this Christmas Eve and lasting a full year.
3. During this year of jubilee We grant and impart in the Lord a full indulgence, remission, and forgiveness of all their sins to all the faithful of either sex who confess their sins with true repentance, receive Holy Communion, and devoutly visit the city basilicas of Saints Peter and Paul, Saint John Lateran, and Saint Mary Major; in addition, they must pray to God for the exaltation of Holy Church, the destruction of heresies, peace among Catholic rulers, and the safety and quiet of the Christian people. Roman and residents of Rome must make their visits on thirty different days. These can be in broken or unbroken sequence and can be reckoned in natural or ecclesiastical days, that is, a day measured from the first vespers of one day to the end of vespers the next evening. Pilgrims or other non-residents should make at least fifteen such visits.
4. Some of those who set out for Rome with this purpose may not be able to fulfill the condition of visiting the basilicas for the requisite number of days either because they die on the way or are prevented by illness or some other lawful reason.
We therefore decree that they share in the same indulgence and remission when they have confessed their sins and received Holy Communion as if they had actually visited the basilicas on the prescribed days. Although hindered by the necessities mentioned, they still obtain their desired goal.
5. Do not let these days of salvation pass by without using the great opportunity to appease divine justice and obtain grace. For it is not fitting that you should be less eager in obtaining the abundance of heavenly grace and in visiting the courts of the Lord than men greedy for profit or zealous for travel. Yet these allow no inconveniences or hindrances to detain them. The very labors, if they are undertaken with the proper intentions, can be of great assistance in gathering the rich fruits of penance. It was for this reason that the Church has always regarded the ancient custom of making pilgrimages as very beneficial. The troubles and weariness incurred in the course of pilgrimage make reparation for past sins and strengthen the desire of repentance. Even if ardent resolution and love for God remove or lighten your experience of such troubles, this eagerness of spirit is very powerful in obtaining forgiveness and is accounted part of the satisfaction due for sins since much is forgiven the one who loves much.
Therefore, go up to the city of Sion and be filled with the riches of the Lord’s house. The sight of this city of faith and home of piety, the tombs of the apostles, and the reminders of the martyrs will move you to repentance which appeases God. When you gaze on the earth which was stained by their blood and on the traces of their holiness which are everywhere to be seen, you will inevitably repent of your poor imitation of the practices and laws which they followed and which you profess to follow. The majesty of the churches and the dignity of their divine service will remind you that you are the temple of the living God; they will increase your zeal to adorn with the gifts of divine grace this temple which you were formerly inclined to defile, grieving the Holy Spirit. You will also be inspired to piety and repentance by the tears of others who bewail their sins and by the groans of men beseeching forgiveness from God. But in your sadness and grief, the very crowd of peoples and races assembled for the works of penance and justice will cause you joy. For this will be the most delightful and beautiful sight, foreshadowing in public view the triumph of the Cross and religion. Our own joy at this universal assembly of the Church’s children will be especially great. We consider that your striving in love and piety promises great aid and assistance to Ourselves. For We trust that you will remember your most loving father in your prayers to God. We also trust that when you join Us in prayer for the safety of the Catholic faith, for the return of all peoples who have strayed from its unity, for the peace of the Church, and for the happiness of Christian princes, you will assist Us to support the weight of Our office.
6. Venerable brothers, patriarchs, primates, archbishops, and bishops, assist Us in these concerns and proclaim this time of repentance and reconciliation to the peoples entrusted to your care. By means of diligence and influence, see to it that this opportunity of obtaining forgiveness, which making available to all, occasions the greatest benefit for the salvation of souls. Let them know what works of Christian humility and mercy they should perform to prepare themselves for gathering this great harvest of heavenly grace. Let them understand by your words and your example that they should fast, pray, and give alms. All of you who will add this task to your pastoral cares should bring a section of your flock to this citadel of religion and source of mercy, to Our fatherly welcome and embrace. Your visit will add luster to Our celebration and you will, of course, obtain great stores of divine mercy from so fine and laborious an undertaking. You will carry home those stores like rich cargo and joyfully share them with the rest of your people.
7. We are perfectly sure that Our beloved sons in Christ, the emperor-elect and all Catholic kings and princes, will use their authority to assist Us in ensuring that Our plans for the salvation of souls will enjoy the great success which We desire. So We strongly urge and beseech them in their zeal for religion to act in unison with the bishops, and provide safe roads and inns for the pilgrims. They know well that these actions will benefit the peace of the realm and that God Himself will be appeased and favorable towards them in accordance with their own care to increase His glory among the people.
8. In order that this letter may more readily come to the knowledge of all the faithful in every place, We wish printed copies of it, signed by the public notary and with the seal of a person of ecclesiastical rank affixed, to be accepted exactly as if they were the original.
9. May no one be permitted to curtail this expression of Our proclamation, promulgation, concession, exhortation, request and desire or act against it in rash daring. But if anyone tries to do so he knows he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of His blessed apostles, Peter and Paul.
Given at Rome in Saint Mary Major’s, 30 April 1744 in the fifth year of Our pontificate.