Pope Francis, ever since the beginning of his papacy, has shown a particular care and attention to the many challenges of humanity and has repeatedly stressed his desire to create a “culture of encounter.” This year, to help further his cause, Pope Francis has changed the way he selects his monthly prayer intentions entrusted to the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network (formerly known as the Apostleship of Prayer).
Since 1928, the pope has chosen two prayer intentions for each month, one referred to as the “universal” intention and the other named the “evangelization” intention. Both intentions are meant to highlight certain needs and challenges that are present around the world and open up the horizons of Catholics to what other members of the Church are struggling with.
The process of selecting the monthly prayer intentions is typically very lengthy. About two years in advance, Vatican Congregations, bishops and other members of the faithful send suggestions to the International Director of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network. These proposals (often hundreds of them) are then presented to the Holy Father, who prayerfully considers them and selects those that he would like the world to pray for. After the pope has approved the intentions, they are translated into various languages and distributed to every possible media channel.
Since it is such a long process, the prayer intentions are usually very general and not focused on current events as they are happening. Seeing the disconnect and wanting to promote a “culture of encounter,” Pope Francis has decided to only chose one prayer intention in advance and then, at the beginning of each month, choose an “urgent” prayer intention that is linked to actual circumstances unfolding in the world.
Pope Francis will typically announce this intention during the first Sunday Angelus of the month, calling the world to pray for a current situation that is most in need of prayers (this month Pope Francis will announce the special intention on Sunday, January 8, 2017).
The recent advances in modern communications and social media are the biggest reason for this change as information can now be relayed around the world instantaneously. Besides releasing this new intention on websites and social media, the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network will take advantage of its new digital platform that was released last year, the Click To Pray app.
Click To Pray is the pope’s official platform of prayer for the great challenges of humanity and the mission of the Church. It currently has more than 310,000 users worldwide and is available in Portuguese, Spanish, French and English. In 2017 there will also be a version of the app in German, Italian and Chinese.
The Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network will continue to produce one Pope Video each month, but because of the need for production time, the Pope Video will remain focused on the prayer intention that was selected in advance.
In the end, Pope Francis hopes that the world will be able to move from a “culture of indifference” to a “culture of encounter,” where we do not stand idly by while other people suffer, but discover new ways to pray and act to help alleviate the suffering of others. Pope Francis sees these monthly prayer intentions as avenues that will help bring that change about, mobilizing the world to pray for situations that need it the most.