Two very fine intentions from the Holy Father this month.

Remember: When you are asked, or are required to pray for the Holy Father’s intentions, when, for example, you are seeking to gain an indulgence, you are to pray for the intentions the Holy Father designates.  You are not just praying for the intention of the Holy Father, that is for him (though that is a great idea!).

Also, you don’t have to know specifically what his designated intentions are, you can just pray for them.

BTW… below you will see "Popular" Republic of China.  That is a transliteration from Italian "Repubblica Popolare".  The person who wrote the English text was asleep at the switch this time, but you know what is meant.


Pope Benedict’s general prayer intention for March is: "That the role of women may be more appreciated and used to good advantage in every country in the world".

His mission intention is: "That, in the light of the Letter addressed to them by Pope Benedict XVI, the bishops, priests, consecrated persons and lay faithful of the Catholic Church in the Popular Republic of China may commit themselves to being the sign and instrument of unity, communion and peace".


May God help China.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Daniel Nekic says:

    I had no idea that you had to actually pray for the intentions the Holy Father designates!!!
    That means that every prayer for the intentions of the Holy Father I have made my entire life has been useless!
    Every plenary indulgence I thought I recieved, I actually didn\’t!

    Oh no…

  2. Joe says:

    And penance for confession for me – I didn’t realise this either. Where does this leave me?

  3. teresa says:

    Thank you dear Father Zuhlsdorf for posting this message.

  4. Kelly says:

    Father Z, in what Church document is this made clear? The Handbook of Indulgences? I have never heard of this before from any of the very devout Catholics I know. If it is the case that one must pray for the designated intentions of the Holy Father, then I understand why you were so upfront about it, however if this is more a case of it would be better to know the designated intentions, then I don’t understand why you say it with such harshness. [HUH?!?]
    It seems that there have been problems with comment lately on your blog, which is unfortunate. Your blog is a great source of truth concerning the Liturgy and other ecclesial matters; however, I can’t help but wonder if these problems with the comments come partly from the way you present things yourself. Everything with charity or it is all in vain is it not? This is just one instance of this I have been noticing on your blog lately. I don’t mean to be rude myself, but maybe we could all learn to be more charitable about the way we speak about others and to others. Thank you for your service to Holy Mother Church.

    [Wow… no good deed goes unpunished I guess.]

  5. Angels Stole my Phonebox says:

    I see no case for Fr Z’s post having been rude or otherwise objectionable..

    someone in UK

  6. Ben says:

    Fr Z doesn’t mention plenary indulgences, but I guess that’s one of the things he’s referring to.

    Can the Church really require this? And if so, shouldn’t it be publicized more? By these standards I suspect very few people indeed are receiving plenary indulgences. In any case, until recent times (and in particular, before the internet) it might have been quite difficult for the average Catholic to discover the designated intentions of the pope in good time.

    I believe a priest can offer Mass ‘for the intention of the donor’ of a stipend, without necessarily having to know specifically what that intention is. After all, God knows what the intention is without our having to tell him about it explicitly.

    I am open to learning from a clear statement of the Church that this is what she requires, but this sort of ‘precision’ in what we pray for goes against my understanding of prayer somewhat (as though we might ‘accidentally’ pray for the wrong thing if we don’t word our intention very carefully).

    St Teresa of Avila gives us some wisdom here: ‘My God is not in the least meticulous; He does not look at trivial details’ (“The Way of Perfection”, Chapter 23)

  7. Symeon says:

    I also have never heard that one has to know what they are in order to pray for the Holy Fathers intentions. I would really like to have that authoritatively confirmed.

  8. Nancy McClintock says:

    This is what I understand Father to mean, and he has explained it before
    on this blog: to gain the indulgence you must pray “for the intentions of
    the Holy Father.” You don’t have to know what they are. When Fr. Z says
    you are not just to pray for the intention of the Holy Father, he means
    don’t just pray “for the Holy Father” himself. That is, it’s not a personal
    prayer for the pope.

  9. Maureen says:

    If you intended to pray for the intention that the Church directs you to pray for, probably that counts; and probably if you forget to Google ahead of time, that’s cool too. It’s just nice to know going forward that you can look up specific intentions of the month.

  10. Terri says:

    It is a great treat we have in our parish – the priest publishes both the general and mission intention each week in the bulletin, relatively prominently, so those who pray can know what it is they are praying for – and those who don’t might think about doing so

  11. Henry Edwards says:

    Some commenters appear to think that — in order “to pray for the intentions the Holy Father designates” — they themselves must know specifically what those intentions are.

    Would you not be confident that — if you pray for “the intentions the Pope has designated for the month of March” — then God know will know specifically what those intentions are, in order are to grant them if this is His will?

  12. Luigi says:

    On the topic at hand, Father Z is simply pointing out what it means to “pray for the Holy Father’s intentions.” No doubt, (and obviously now) many people have taken this to mean simply praying for the Holy Father. If you didn’t know the diffrence before, you do now. What is harsh about that?

    As for any possibly lost indulgences, if you really think the Almighty looked down on you and said, “Sorry… your prayers for the pope don’t count,” with all due respect, your view of indulgences is probably skewed and overly legalistic in the first place.

    Perhaps Father will respond, but my sense is if you appraoched the indulgence sincerely and simply misunderstood what it meant to pray for the Holy Father’s intentions, you have nothing to worry about. Now you know what this truly means going forward.

  13. Chris says:

    “That means that every prayer for the intentions of the Holy Father I have made my entire life has been useless!”

    Ditto that for me, I had no idea.

    Fr. Z, forget the call for squishiness. PLEASE keep up the blunt, direct teaching. God knows we don’t get it in most churches from our “anything goes” priests so we need to get it somehere.

    Thanks for educating us today! Maybe think about taking one thing a day in terms of tradition and teach it every day. I think it would be hugely helpful.

  14. Alice says:

    I don’t think that you have to know what the intentions of the Holy Father are to pray for them, but it is nice. I’ve known Traditionalists (hopefully, this was not a widespread thing) to pray for the pope or some other intention because they knew that the Pope’s intentions couldn’t be anything good.

  15. Liz F. says:

    I always thought that when we prayed for the Holy Father or the intentions of the Holy Father we were praying for whatever the Holy Father needs the most. Aren’t we?

  16. Prof. Basto says:

    Daniel and others,

    Fr Z is just saying, I believe, that when we are required or asked to pray for the Holy Father’s intentions, we are not just to pray for his intention (i.e. for him), but also for his intentions.

    We can pray for the intention of someone (i.e., pray for someone), or pray for someone’s intentions (associate in the prayer of someone so that someone’s intentions are achieved). That second thing is what we are required to do sometimes, when we are required to pray for the “intentions” of someone.

    But that does not mean, I believe, that we must actually know what those intentions are. It is good that we now know, because now those intentions are made public, but a prayer for the generic intentions of the Holy Father (whatever intentions the Holy Father has), would suffice.

    Consider that in earlier times, we had no way of knowing what intentions the Holy Father designated as his yearly/monthly, etc prayer intentions from time to time. Mass communications now make this possible. But that information does not reach everybody.

    And the Church always considered valid that one prayed for another’s intentions, even without knowing what they are. I believe more than once Fr. Z himself asked us to pray for an intention of his, without disclosing what that intention actually was.

    The important thing is that we are to pray for the intentions, even if we don’t know what they are, and not just “for someone’s intention”.

  17. Maggie J. says:

    Father Z., Thank you so much for providing this information. I will keep this in prayer. I only regret that there are those who choose to shoot the messenger.
    God bless you always.

  18. Janet says:

    Henry, eminently sane perspective! And that’s what I do, just pray for the intentions of the Holy Father for the month of (fill in blank). But I do make a point of checking to see what those intentions are around the beginning of each month, then trust the rest to God and my angel.

  19. Brendan says:

    How long until people start perverting the Holy Father’s first prayer intention? [That’s what I was wondering.]

  20. ChadS says:

    EWTN has a page with all of the Holy Father’s intentions for the year already listed. I couldn’t find any similar listing at either the Vatican’s or the USCCB’s sites (but I may not have been looking in the right places).


  21. Dear All,

    Thanks so much to Fr. Z for putting the Pope’s intentions on the blog! I work for the Apostleship of Prayer, which is the apostolate responsible for spreading the Pope’s intentions throughout the world. If you have any more questions, visit – we have a list of the intentions for the whole year, as well as reflections on those intentions and other materials that may be of help.

    As far as indulgences, and Fr. Z, please correct me if I’m wrong, but I think intent is the important thing. As long as you weren’t purposely cutting corners, you should be ok. But… the Holy Father obviously thinks that there are things that need to be brought to our attention and that we need to be praying for, so we should be attentive to that.

  22. Eileen says:

    Fr. Z,

    For the record, I never find you harsh. I enjoy your blog so much for it’s clarity and style of presentation. Thanks for speaking the truth in your little corner of the virtual world.

  23. Dan says:

    ” God bless His Holiness and all who love him! [Minutes… it would seem.]”

    Will it happen that soon??

  24. Cecile says:

    An old priest in his 70s taught me long ago that to “pray for the Pope” and “pray for the Pope’s intentions” are 2 different things. Fr. Z is not saying anything new. It is good to always be humble, ponder about things, before making judgment.

  25. R says:

    Does anyone know when these monthly intentions of the Pope first started to appear? There is a traditional list of the general intentions of the Pope & this must surely suffice? Slater’s Manual of Moral Theology (1908)lists these intentions as: the common good of the church, propogation of the Faith, conversion of sinners, heretics & schismatics, and peace & concord among Christian peoples.

  26. Greg Smisek says:

    “the Popular Republic of China”

    Darn, I must have missed the Nations of the World Popularity Contest.

    On a more serious note, Catholics have suffered great persecution under the Communist regime. Today Communist bureaucrats continue to force their will on the Catholic Church in China: Letter and an explanatory note.

  27. Stephanie says:

    R –

    The Pope began providing general intentions for each month in 1880 and added a mission intention for each month in 1929. Since then, each year on December 31, he provides the Apostleship of Prayer with the 24 for intentions for the next year (that is to say, this past December 31, we received the intentions for 2010), and each country’s AoP office translates the intentions and propagates them.


  28. Bill says:

    The EWTN and Apostleship of Prayer sites are great. Last year I printed the list from EWTN, cut the list into little strips, one for each month, and inserted the strips into my Desk Planner at the start of each month.

    Father Z’s post reminded me that I need to get this done for 2009 before any more of the year passes by!

    In light of all the flak and disrespect that has been flung at the Pope lately, I’ve started adding a specific and separate little prayer for the Pope himself to my morning prayers, along with the usual prayers for his intentions.

    By remembering to pray for the Pope’s intentions every morning, my daily Rosary (said on a rosary that was blessed by a bishop) can qualify for a plenary indulgence (sent to Mary Immaculate through my morning offering, that she may apply it to the interests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus), given daily communion, timely confession, and (I hope) detachment from sin.

  29. C. says:

    “That the role of women may be more appreciated…”

    Especially by women!

  30. Daniel Nekic says:

    Ah. See, I was under the impression that one had to actually KNOW what the intentions were.
    I have always understood the distinction between praying for the intentionS of the Pope, and praying for the Pope himself.

    No lost indulgences after all!

    Luigi, I don’t think I have an overly-legalistic view of indulgences, I thought the joke was clear… God doesn’t play gotcha with his people.

  31. John Kusske says:

    Greg, how about another title I saw applied to China mistakenly, “the most populist nation in the world”? That wasn’t even from a bad translation, it was staight English. One wonders what the person thought “populist” actually means.

  32. For what it’s worth –

    Not sure where Fr. Z got these particular English translations, but the Italian is sent to the various Apostleship of Prayer offices around the world, who translate them into appropriate vernacular for their country. I work at the US AoP, so I know those aren’t our translations. They were probably a rough job done by someone at the Vatican.

  33. Kelly says:

    Father Z,

    I apologize for my earlier comment. I read your post wrong. I thought that you meant that we have to pray for the designated intention or else God doesn’t hear the prayer, or something silly like that. Then I read the posts where it seemed like people were developing scruples about this. Now I can see that you were just saying we should pray for the intentionS, and that it would be even better to know the designated ones. Also it seems like those people who I thought might be developing scruples were joking, they weren’t being serious.

    What I meant about the “harshness” thing was just something I have been seeing on a lot of blogs lately. It is very easy for those of us who are orthodox to get prideful about the fact that we know the truth and are inside of it. I see this a lot especially when we talk about bishops who seem to be leading their flock astray. I agree that we must correct their statements, but we also need to pray and love them with the love of Christ now more then ever, and I don’t mean with hugs. We shouldn’t attack our priests and bishops who have been ill-formed or have chosen to dissent. We need to pray for them and engage them; they are just as thirsty for Christ as we are.

    I have had problems with developing scruples about the Liturgy, to the extent that I am no longer able to focus on Christ when I am at Holy Mass, because I am too concerned with the liturgical abuses taking place. I just want us to always turn to Christ,(as I am sure you do too) and not put our attention on us or other people. Vero thank you for all that you do. I apologize again for the comment.

  34. Bill says:

    John Kusske — betcha anything the writer meant \”populous.\” People think that just because something gets through the spellchecker, it must be right.

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