On 29 June 1968, the solemnity of the apostles Peter and Paul, the Apostolic Penitentiary published the first edition of The Handbook of Indulgences. Since that date great strides and important changes have taken place in matters of Church discipline, in the celebration of the sacred rites, and especially in the use of the Word of God. From the latter in particular the entire life of the Church has marvelously benefited.
During this same period the following events have had some impact worth noting as regards indulgences: the publication of the Neo-Vulgate edition of the Scriptures; the publication of new ritual books and texts for liturgical celebrations; and, finally, the promulgation of the new Code of Canon Law for the Latin Church.
To be sure, the new Code has but expressly confirmed the prescriptions already contained in the special laws already issued concerning the use and the granting of indulgences. So even though all these mentioned events have not basically changed anything concerning the discipline on indulgences, nevertheless these new publications and norms should be taken into account in order rightly to express those norms and in order to furnish a listing of the works and prayers endowed with an indulgence. Such have to be considered when there is need to cite the sacred scriptures, to indicate the current regulations for liturgical actions, or to refer to the new canons and their numbering.
It was therefore decided that there was a need to prepare a new edition based upon the criteria mentioned above. In this way The Handbook of Indulgences would then be in harmony with other authentic texts which have liturgical and canonical force. And, since the occasion furnished itself, it was also decided that it would be a good time to add some new indulgenced grants that had been issued by Pope John Paul II. He approved this present edition during an audience on 13 December 1985.
For purposes of historical accuracy this third edition also includes the apostolic constitution Indulgentiarum doctrina so that it can be seen that what is found in the original document has undergone no change. For similar reasons this edition also contains before its Introduction the text of the Decree of the Apostolic Penitentiary dated 29 June 1968 so that the criteria which determine the canonical force of The Handbook are clearly evident.
In publishing this third edition of The Handbook of Indulgences, the Apostolic Penitentiary earnestly hopes that the faithful are greatly aided in their quest for holiness, whether through their devout use of indulgences or through their zeal for the charity and good works which are the very root and foundation for indulgences.
Given at Rome at the Apostolic Penitentiary, 18 May 1986, the solemnity of Pentecost.
+ Aloysius Cardinal Dadaglio, Major Penitentiary
Aloysius De Magistris, Regent