Should we pray for ‘our Holy Father’s intentions’ even if a pope has bad intentions?

by Steve Ray on October 3, 2019

Should we pray for ‘our Holy Father’s intentions’ even if a pope has bad intentions?

October 3, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — I was in a car driving with a friend, and he said to me: “You know, it’s really hard in this pontificate to know what to do in front of the children. I mean, you can’t just pretend that everything is fine with Pope Francis. Kids are smart, and they hear stuff. They ask questions. They know something weird is going on. One day when I led the rosary, I said we would pray ‘for the pope’s good intentions.’ But this also struck my older kids as odd. Does that mean he has bad intentions? And the answer to the question is pretty obvious: yes, some of his intentions seem very bad, as the Vatican presents them in its little videos. So what are we supposed to do when we are seeking to gain a plenary indulgence, which requires praying for the pope’s intentions?”

945109BA-50D3-4852-BA08-6A4CCBB1E6FEI have noticed this question come up many times in recent years. Some families have stopped praying for the pope’s intentions altogether. Some pray for his conversion instead. That’s certainly not a bad idea, but I think we can all give a deep sigh of relief about the main question.

In the past year, I heard two different traditional Catholic priests — on different continents — give a homily on this subject. Their explanation of what it means to pray for the intentions of the Holy Father was virtually identical.

According to the Church’s longstanding book of indulgenced prayers, the Raccolta (which can be purchased in its last English edition of 1957), the pope’s intentions always include the following objects:

1. The progress of the Faith and triumph of the Church

2. Peace and union among Christian Princes and Rulers

3. The conversion of sinners

4. The uprooting of heresy

Patrick Hawkins, creator of the excellent homiletics resource Sermonry, cites these four general intentions and then observes:

Whenever you pray for the pope’s intentions, you are praying for these extremely Catholic intentions. You are even praying for these intentions if you are praying in the sede vacanteperiod between different papal reigns. … [W]e can with confidence pray an Our Father, a Hail Mary, and a Glory Be for the intentions of the Holy Father whenever this is required of us. We should do what the Church enjoins us to do to receive a plenary indulgence. If we do this with faith, and unite our will to God’s, only good can come of it.

In the same spirit, a canon of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest explains:

It is very good for you to have these specific intentions in mind when you pray for the Holy Father’s intentions. Even if you do not think of them specifically, however, your prayer is still valid, as they are included in the intention of our Mother the Church. Of course the Pope may have other personal intentions, and these canform part of your prayer as well, but this is not necessary.

So, then, we should be at peace. An individual reigning pope is not the only one who determines what are “the Holy Father’s intentions” for which we must pray; the Church herself tells us what they include, and we know they must always include the welfare of the Church in the four ways sanctioned by tradition and by approved publications. If a particular pope happens to have some wayward intentions of his own that conflict with the Faith, his intentions will be invalid, and we will not be praying for them.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Hector Gomez October 3, 2019 at 9:55 PM

Of course God will answer the pope’s intention. But I don’t think the Lord can be fooled, not even by a pope! So don’t worry. God cannot be fooled. Keep praying for the pope anyway.

Eunice Amankwah-Addo October 5, 2019 at 9:57 PM

Also, one of the main reasons a pope chooses a new name by which he is addressed during his pontificate is precisely to signify the ‘new creation’ he is in Christ as His Vicar on earth.

Thus praying for the Pope under his chosen title is unanimously praying for him in the exercise of his spiritual duties pertaining to his infallible office, and from which no error can proceed.

Any error, real or perceived is from the ‘old man’, not even as a baptised person or his priestly vocation (because these are also sacramental states and therefore intrinsically holy states of being); but from the pre-Christian fallen nature we all still struggle with unfortunately.

Thus, Holy Mother Church in Her wisdom always speaks of praying for our HOLY FATHER’S intentions, signifying the intentions the Pope has in so far as he, in his official role as Pope, is holy and has holy desires regarding the Church in Union with God’s will for his Mystical Body.

So strictly speaking, we needn’t even qualify the ‘intentions’, as many do today, with words such as, ‘good’ ‘pious’ or ‘traditional’.
Simplicity is the best policy. God be praised, the Church has already figured these things out for us.

Also, as it is by the proper exercise of this office that he will be sanctified and saved, we spontaneously pray for his personal holiness and salvation when we pray for His Holiness’ intentions- an extra reason we must still say the prayers as we’ve always done. Hope this general-knowledge explanation also helps.

sandi October 13, 2019 at 11:20 AM

I used to ponder the question of praying for his intentions, too. Then I realized that any intention that does not conform to God's Will will not be honored in the request to pray for the Pope's intentions. That set my mind at ease and to trust in God.

steve ray here: Thanks Sandi!

Joe October 17, 2019 at 10:50 AM

Thanks for another good essay.
I pray for the Pope and for his intentions. I believe he is a "son of the Church", as he has said. I disagree with him on some things and agree with him on others. I am unhappy with many of his actions and I would not want to be in his shoes :-). I think of him as another sinner attempting to follow Christ faithfully and pray that he discerns and follows God's will in his life and for the Church.

STEVE RAY HERE: I hope you are correct but I fear it is worse than your optimistic hopes.

Father Khouri October 17, 2019 at 11:37 AM

Really? Not that the current pope is a personal enemy but of course any Catholic must pray for him. We pray for enemies and for friends. Just pray, God knows does what to do with the prayers.

Greetings from Jerusalem! Fr. Khoury, first thanks for being a priest. I know your last name means “priest” in Arabic.

Second, I never said we should not pray for Pope Francis. Quite on the contrary, I say we should pray for Pope Francis more than ever. He is the Vicar of Christ and as such he needs our prayers.

Third, if you read my article again, it is about whether we should pray for HIS intentions. I quite frankly have questions about some of his intentions and that is what inspired my article.

Lastly, again thank you for being a Catholic priest. You have my utmost appreciation and gratitude. I have a family and grandchildren and you have sacrificed all of that for the bride of Christ for which I thank you profusely.

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