By Eli Pacheco

Catholics can receive a plenary indulgence this Christmas season. 

All that is needed is to pray before a Nativity scene in a Franciscan church. The indulgence is available from Dec. 8, which marks the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to Feb. 2, 2024, the feast of the Presentation in the Temple of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

The Conference of the Franciscan Family requested the indulgence of Pope Francis. 

This commemorates the 800th anniversary of the Rule of St. Francis’ approval in 1223. It also marks the 800th anniversary of the first Nativity to celebrate Christ's birth and recognize the humble conditions under which He entered this world. St. Francis created the first Nativity for the Midnight Mass in Italy, complete with live animals, in a cave near the town of Greccio. 

How does one receive this plenary indulgence? 

Catholics need only to visit a nativity scene at a Franciscan church. If you’re ill or unable to pray at a Nativity, you can receive indulgence by offering your sufferings to the Lord or carrying out practices of piety. They're built on spiritual disciplines that enhance our connection to God, such as: 

          Acts of hospitality

The story of St. Francis and the crèche 

The holy man who created the Franciscan Order also invented the Nativity. 

St. Francis sought to bring Bethlehem into every town to commemorate Christmas. The tradition began three years before he died in 1226. St. Francis, then a deacon, had a love for Christ's birth that was anything but subtle. 

On this Christmas in 1223, he journeyed to the Italian mountainside town of Greccio. This fertile region was ripe with vineyards and natural beauty. St. Francis feared the chapel of the Franciscan hermitage would be too small for Midnight Mass. So, he put his creativity to work.  

St. Francis envisioned a scene of divine beauty: a replication of Christ's birth. It was an idea born two years after he visited Bethlehem himself. 

He discovered the perfect natural rock alcove, some 3 feet wide and 2 feet tall, nearby. With Pope Honorius III's blessing, St. Francis helped to create the manger scene. It contained a wooden, hay-filled crib and live animals.  

The scene, upon completion, moved the founder of the Franciscan Order to joyous cheers. 

In 1291, Nicholas IV commissioned a Nativity in the Roman Basilica of St. Mary Major. Today, Nativities have become cherished icons of Christian celebration and reflection everywhere. 

Where can I receive the Nativity indulgence? 

Franciscan parishes and Shrine churches where you can receive your indulgence are as follows: 


Mary, Gate of Heaven Church, 8M27+77V, A1, Jamaica 

United States 


St. Francis Regis Church, Huslia, Alaska 99746  

St. Teresas Church, 39 2nd Street, Kaltag, Alaska 99748 

St. Patrick's Church, Cemetery Road, Koyukuk, Alaska 99754 

St. Peter in Chains Church, Ruby, Alaska 99768 


Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church, Highway 191 and Navajo Route 7, Chinle, Ariz.  

Our Lady of Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, 173 Main Street, Fort Defiance, Ariz. 86504  

San Solano Mission, Route 19 & Topawa Rd., Topawa, AZ 85639

San Xavier Del Bac Mission, 1950 W San Xavier Rd, Tucson, AZ 85746

St. Anthony Catholic Church, Hwy 191 N.M. 463, Many Farms, Ariz. 

St. Mary of the Rosary Church, Navajo Route 7 Piñon, AZ 86510 

St. Francis Catholic Church, Indian Route 7, Sawmill, AZ. 86504 

Our Lady of Angels Conventual Church, 5802 East Lincoln Drive, Scottsdale, AZ 854253-4124 


Immaculate Conception Parish, 2540 San Diego Avenue, San Diego, Calif. 92110 

St. Barbara Parish, 2201 Laguna Street, Santa Barbara, Calif. 93105-3611 


St. Patrick – St. Anthony Church, 285 Church Street, Hartford, Conn. 06103-1196  


Sacred Heart Church, 518 North Marion Street, Tampa, Fla. 33602-4605  


Holy Spirit Church, 4074 Chambers Road, Macon, Ga. 31206  

St. Peter Claver Church, Ward Street, Macon, Ga. 31204 


St. Peter's Church, 110 West Madison Street, Chicago Ill. 60602 

St. Isidore Church, 19812 East 1000th Avenue, Dieterich, Ill. 62424  

St. Augustine of Hippo Church, 408 Reverend Joseph A. Brown SJ Boulevard, East St. Louis, Ill. 62205 

Sacred Heart Church, 1530 Union Street, Indianapolis, Ill. 46225  

St. Patrick Church, 950 Prospect Street, Indianapolis Ill. 46203 

St. John the Baptist Church, 404 North Hickory Street, Joliet, Ill. 60435 

St. Francis of Assisi Church, 203 East Main Street, Teutopolis, Ill. 62467 


Holy Name of Jesus Church, 11000 West 133rd Avenue., Cedar Lake, Ind. 46303  

Holy Family Church, 3027 Pearl Street, Oldenburg, Ind. 47036 


Little Flower of Jesus Church, 600 South 16th Street, Monroe La. 71201  


St. Camillus Church, 1600 St. Camillus Drive, Silver Spring, Md. 20903-2598  


St. Anthony Shrine, 100 Arch Street, Boston, Mass. 02110-1100  


Transfiguration Church, 25231 Code Road, Southfield, Mich. 48033  


St. Francis of Assisi Church, 2613 Highway 82, East Greenwood, Miss. 38930  


St. Anthony Church, 3140 Meramec Street, St. Louis, Mo. 63118  

New Jersey 

St. Anthony of Padua Church, 65 Bartholdi Avenue, Butler, N.J. 07405-1492  

St. Francis of Assisi Parish, 4700 Long Beach Boulevard, Long Beach Island, N.J. 08008-3926 

St. Bonaventure Church, 174 Ramsey Street, Paterson, N.J. 07501-3215 

St. Mary's Church, 17 Pompton Avenue, Pompton Lakes, N.J. 07442-1890 

New Mexico 

Holy Family Catholic Church, 562 Atrisco Road Southwest, Albuquerque, N.M. 87105 

St. Joseph Church, 1 Friar Road, Laguna, N.M. 87026 

St. Berard Catholic Church, Highway 10 & 101 Cedar Avenue, Navajo, N.M. 87328 

San Juan Bautista Catholic Church, 506 South Lincoln Avenue, Roswell, N.M. 88203 

St. Peter Church, 111 East Deming Street, Roswell, N.M. 88203 

St. Mary Mission, 1 St. Mary Drive, Tohatchi, N.M. 87325-0039 

New York 

St. Bonaventure Church, 95 E Main St, Allegany, N.Y. 14706

Ss. Columba-Brigid Parishes, 75 Hickory Street, Buffalo, N.Y. 14204 

Church of St. Francis of Assisi, 135 West 31st Street, New York, N.Y. 10001-3403  

Mount Irenaeus Franciscan Retreat, 3735 Roberts Road, West Clarksville, N.Y. 14786-0100 

North Carolina 

Immaculate Conception Church, 725 Burch Avenue, Durham, N.C. 27701-2811  


National Shrine of St. Anthony, 5000 Colerain Avenue, Cincinnati, Ohio 45223 

St. Clement Church, 4536 Vine Street, Cincinnati, Ohio 45217 

St. Francis Seraph Church, 1615 Vine Street, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202 

Transfiguration Church, 12608 Madison Avenue, Lakewood, Ohio 44107 

St. Joseph Byzantine Catholic Church, 814 North Fifth Street, Toronto, Ohio 43964 


St. Mary Byzantine Catholic Church, 621 West Mahanoy Avenue, Mahanoy City, Penn. 17948  

South Carolina 

St. Andrew Church, 209 Sloan Street, Clemson, S.C. 29611-4930  


Holy Family Church, 1302 E. Champion, Edinburg, Texas 78539 

Mission San Francisco de la Espada, 10040 Espada Road, San Antonio, Texas 78214 

Mission San Jose Church, 701 East Pyron Avenue, San Antonio, Texas 78214 

St. Francis Cabrini Church, 1606 San Casimiro Street, San Antonio, Texas 78214 


St. Francis of Assisi Church, 18825 Fuller Heights Road, Triangle, Va. 22172-2007  


St. Francis of Assisi Parish, 1104 West Heroy Avenue, Spokane Wash. 99205-1275  


St. Casimir Parish, West 146 Park Street, Krakow, Wis. 54137 

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parishes, 124 East Pulaski Street, Pulaski, Wis. 54162 

St. Stanislaus Parish, West 1888 Hofa Park Drive, Seymour, Wis. 54165 

St. Thomas Aquinas Church, 305 South First Street, Waterford, Wis. 53185 

St. Clare Catholic Church, 7616 Fritz Street, Wind Lake, Wis. 53185 

Frequently asked questions 

What is an indulgence in the Catholic Church? 

Indulgences are a list of appointed prayers and deeds. They are intended as reparations and a healthy sorrow for sin. Pope Paul VI revived the practice, after a historical decline, in 1968. Large-scale indulgences, such as pilgrimages and taking part in the Eucharistic Congress, remained. Smaller acts, such as praying at a Nativity, are meant for daily life to encourage charity and awareness of repentance. 

The latest revision of indulgences came in 1999 to replace Paul VI’s list. See the list here. It’s a guideline for devotion, practices, and prayers to benefit our souls. 

When should a nativity scene be set up? 

Before the Advent season, usually from late November to mid-December. (In 2023, it began on Dec. 3). Baby Jesus should make his appearance on Christmas Eve. If possible, place Him in the center of the scene, with no other figures behind him.  

This is a wonderful opportunity to let the kids get involved in the ceremony. In the days after Christmas, add the shepherds. Jan. 6 is Three Kings Day, when the magi, Zoroastrian priests also referred to as the wise men, make their appearance. Keep your Nativity on display through the end of the Epiphany, which is Feb. 2.