Plenary Indulgence: Visit a Cemetery and Pray for the Dead

Release a Soul From Purgatory Each Day November 1-8

A man in a cemetery.
Christian Martinez Kempin / E+ / Getty Images

The Bible tells us that, "it is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins," (2 Maccabees 12:46) and especially in the month of November, the Catholic Church urges us to spend time in prayer for those who have gone before us. Prayer for the souls in Purgatory is a requirement of Christian charity, and it helps us to call to mind our own mortality.

The Church offers a special plenary indulgence, applicable only to the souls in Purgatory, on All Souls Day (November 2), but She also encourages us in a special way to continue to keep the Holy Souls in our prayers throughout the first week of November.

Why Should We Visit a Cemetery to Pray for the Dead?

The Church offers an Indulgence for a Cemetery Visit that is available as a partial indulgence all year round, but from November 1 through November 8, this indulgence is plenary. Like the All Souls Day indulgence, it is applicable only to the souls in Purgatory. As a plenary indulgence, it remits all punishment due to sin, which means that simply by performing the requirements of the indulgence, you can obtain the entrance into Heaven of a soul who is currently suffering in Purgatory.

This indulgence for a visit to a cemetery encourages us to spend even the briefest of moments in prayer for the dead in a location that reminds us that we, too, will someday need the prayers of the other members of the Communion of Saints—both those still living and those who have entered into eternal glory. For most of us, the indulgence for a cemetery visit takes only a few minutes, and yet it reaps immense spiritual benefit for the Holy Souls in Purgatory—and for us as well, since those souls whose suffering we ease will pray for us when they enter into Heaven.

What Must One Do to Obtain the Indulgence?

To obtain the plenary indulgence on November 1-November 8, we must receive Communion and sacramental Confession (and have no attachment to sin, even venial). Communion must be received each day we wish to gain the indulgence, but we only need to go to Confession once during the period. A good prayer to recite to earn the indulgence is Eternal Rest, though any formal or informal prayer for the dead will suffice. And, as with all plenary indulgences, we must pray for the intentions of the Holy Father (one Our Father and one Hail Mary) each day we perform the work of the indulgence.

Listing in the Enchiridion of Indulgences (1968)

13. Coemeterii visitatio

Type of Indulgence

Plenary on November 1-November 8; partial the rest of the year


Applies only to the souls in Purgatory

The Work of the Indulgence

An indulgence, applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory, is granted to the faithful, who devoutly visit a cemetery and pray, even if only mentally, for the departed. The indulgence is plenary each day from the 1st to the 8th of November; on other days of the year it is partial.

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ThoughtCo. "Plenary Indulgence: Visit a Cemetery and Pray for the Dead." Learn Religions, Aug. 25, 2020, ThoughtCo. (2020, August 25). Plenary Indulgence: Visit a Cemetery and Pray for the Dead. Retrieved from ThoughtCo. "Plenary Indulgence: Visit a Cemetery and Pray for the Dead." Learn Religions. (accessed June 9, 2023).