Pope Francis Adds ‘Urgent’ Prayer Intentions for 2017

Holy Father will have one monthly intention, plus an intention he will add himself each month to garner support for particular causes.

(photo: Instagram.com/Franciscus)

VATICAN CITY — After launching the first video series on his monthly prayer intentions last year, Pope Francis has decided to make some changes for 2017, by going back to an older system focusing on just one intention rather than two.

However, in addition to the one monthly intention, Francis will also issue an “urgent” prayer intention himself each month, in order to garner rapid support for particular causes.

According to a recent blog post by Father James Kubicki, national director of the U.S. branch of the Apostleship of Prayer, the Pope decided to launch an urgent intention, “given the speed of communication in the digital age.”

While the 12 monthly prayer intentions for 2017 have already been published on the Apostleship of Prayer’s website, Francis will announce his urgent intention during his first Sunday Angelus address of each month.

The Pope’s intention for January is similar to that of last year: Christian unity, specifically “that all Christians may be faithful to the Lord’s teaching by striving with prayer and fraternal charity to restore ecclesial communion and by collaborating to meet the challenges facing humanity.” However, his urgent intention for the month has yet to be announced.

Founded by Jesuit seminarians in France in 1884, the Apostleship of Prayer was established as a means of encouraging Christians to serve God and others through prayer, particularly for the needs of the Church. Since its foundation, the organization has received a monthly universal prayer intention from the Pope, but in 1929 an additional, evangelization intention was added, aimed at the faithful in particular.

However, aside from his urgent prayers, after nearly 100 years, Francis has decided to return to the old system of just one intention, which will alternate between universal and evangelistic themes each month.

According to the Apostleship of Prayer’s website, the Pope’s urgent intention will focus on “current events or urgent needs,” such as disaster relief, and will “help mobilize prayer and action related to the urgent situation.”

Jesuit Father Frederic Fornos, the international director of the Apostleship of Prayer, has said that, for him, the Pope’s urgent intention is a way of confronting “the culture of indifference” by drawing not only attention, but also prayer, to situations that are “more concrete, precise, current (and) related to actual circumstances.”

In 2016, the Pope’s intentions focused on themes close to Francis’ heart, such as creation, families in difficulty, small farmers, indigenous peoples, countries receiving refugees, an end to child-soldiers, solidarity and respect for women.

It also marked the first time his prayer intentions had been featured on video, as part of an initiative called “The Pope Video.” While there were two intentions, the prayer videos, filmed in collaboration with the Vatican Television Center (CTV) and La Machi, centered on the Pope’s universal intention.

The videos, which were initially created specifically for the Jubilee of Mercy, will continue during 2017, and the first one will be published Jan. 9.

Pope Francis’ intentions for 2017 also focus on topics he has frequently spoken out about, such as support for persecuted Christians, youth, Christians in Africa and Asia, workers and the unemployed and the elderly.

In his blog post, Father Kubicki noted that finalizing the monthly prayer intentions is a lengthy process, since it involves gathering suggestions from both Vatican dicasteries as well as from members of the network around the world, proposing them to the Holy Father, waiting for his final versions and then translating and publishing them.

Because of this, the intentions for 2018 will already be chosen and translated “in early 2017,” though they likely won’t be published until the beginning of next year.

The Pope’s prayers of late have been focused on peace and ending terrorism.

On the first day of the new year and the 50th World Day of Peace, Pope Francis condemned a terrorist attack which took place in Istanbul early Sunday morning, praying for the victims, the injured and in support of everyone who works to fight violence and terrorism.

“Grieved, I express my closeness to the Turkish people, I pray for the many victims and the injured and for the whole nation in mourning,” the Pope said after leading the Angelus Jan. 1.

“I ask the Lord to support all people of goodwill who roll up their sleeves to boldly tackle the scourge of terrorism and the bloody stain that envelops the world with a shadow of fear and bewilderment.”

At least 39 people were killed, and another 69 injured, after a gunman opened fire in a nightclub in Istanbul around 1:30am local time Sunday, the BBC reported. Authorities are still looking for the assailant.

In his Angelus message, Pope Francis said that peace is brought about by saying “No” to hatred and violence and “Yes” to fraternity and reconciliation. The year ahead will only “be good to the extent that each of us, with God’s help, will try to do good every day.”

A crowd of around 50,000 people attended the Angelus in St. Peter’s Square, the Vatican reported.

Jan. 1 is also the day the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. Before praying the Angelus Pope Francis reflected on the participation of Mary in our salvation through her role as the mother of Jesus.

 “She said her ‘Yes’ and gave her willingness to be involved in the implementation of God’s plan of salvation.”

“We contemplate the icon of the Child in the arms of his mother,” he continued. “We feel in our hearts a sense of immense gratitude to the one who gave the world the Savior. For this, the first day of a new year, let us say: ‘Thank you, holy Mother of the Son of God, Jesus!’”

Hannah Brockhaus contributed to this story.