Catholic tradition of indulgences to be debated

Pope Francis waves to faithful during the Angelus noon prayer in St Peter's Square at the Vatican on Sunday June 3. Picture by AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia

INDULGENCES will be under scrutiny today at a debate about whether the Catholic Church practice is a help - or hindrance - to the Gospel.

The belief that a person can avoid punishment for sins in return for doing something prescribed by the Church remains one of the deepest divisions between Catholic and Protestant teaching - indeed, controversy over indulgences helped spark the Reformation 500 years ago.

Two renowned apologists will take part in the debate, hosted by All Saints' Church of Ireland.

London-based Peter D Williams, an author, speaker for Catholic Voices and Right to Life executive officer, will be putting forward the Catholic viewpoint; Arizona-based Dr James R White of Alpha and Omega Ministries will advocate the Protestant position.

Last month, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis was granting indulgences for August's World Meeting of Families in Dublin.

In Catholic doctrine an indulgence frees you from being punished for your previously committed sins or it can be passed on to dead relatives to shorten their time in purgatory.

The indulgence is granted to those who "devoutly participate at some event during the ninth World Meeting of Families", with conditions of Sacramental confession, reception of Communion, a prayer for the intentions of the Holy Father, and a heart completely detached from sin.

:: Peter D Williams and James R White will be debating 'Indulgences and the Gospel' at All Saints' Church, University Street, Belfast at 7.30pm today.

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