ASK FATHER: Prayer for the Holy Father’s intention?

From a reader…


To gain an indulgence we are required to “pray for the Pope’s intention”. How are we to understand this – are we asking God to answer the specific prayer intentions of the Holy Father (crudely, asking God to do what the Pope wants)? Or are we praying that God will give inspire and guide the Pope, i.e . that his intentions may be according to God’s will? No doubt this is a bit of a dumb question but I’ve never seen this explained clearly.

Good question. I suspect some people may be a little confused about this.

When you are asked to “pray for the intentions of the Holy Father”, you are not being asked to pray for the Holy Father, though that is good and all Catholics really ought to. Rather, you are asked to pray for the intentions that the Holy Father designates that we pray for. For instance, this month, October 2014 we have these intentions.

  • Peace. That the Lord may grant peace to those parts of the world most battered by war and violence.
  • World Mission Day. That World Mission Day may rekindle in every believer zeal for carrying the Gospel into all the world.

Next month, it’ll be something else.  There is usually a “general” intention and a “mission” intention.

If you don’t happen to know what the Pope’s designated intentions are, you can make a general intention to pray for what he wants.  However, in this internet age, you can find quickly what the Pope wants.  The intentions for the whole year are posted before each year begins.  You might print them out and put them by your wall calendar, or write them on slips of paper for your prayer book or hand missal or your refrigerator.  You could tack them up with a new Zed-Head magnet!

We are all in this together.  It is good to have intentions designated by the Vicar of Christ, for us to coordinate our prayer for specific issues.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Father, speaking of indulgences and praying for the Holy Father’s intentions, isn’t it about time for your annual All Soul’s Day post? :)

  2. Lepidus says:

    Interesting! I thought that we were praying for whatever intentions the Holy Father happened to have at that time – public or private. For example, when Pope Benedict was praying (extremely privately) regarding whether or not to abdicate, I thought that we were joining in those prayers at that time….apparently not!

  3. Legisperitus says:

    There is also a more generic sense of praying for the Holy Father’s intentions (if a footnote from the SSPX website is accurate), by praying for his “objective intentions” as opposed to “personal, subjective intentions”: “The six objective intentions of the Holy Father, traditionally understood, are: the exaltation of the Church, the propagation of the Faith, the extirpation of heresy, the conversion of sinners, concord between Christian princes, and the further welfare of the Christian people.”

  4. Rob in Maine says:


    As a Knight of Columbus I am fortunate that the order publishes the Holy Father’s intentions every month in our magazine, Columbia. Also, EWTN posts the intentions for the year. Yea, the Pope doesn’t come up with these on the fly…

  5. Stvsmith2009 says:

    One of my many active blogs is called  “The Pope and Church News” where I post news from the Vatican Information Service, each weekday. On top of the  left sidebar of this blog, is a section that shows what the Holy Father’s prayer intentions are for the current month. I normally have this updated at the first of each month.

  6. Pearl says:

    I like to pray “For the Holy Father AND his intentions”. Kinda getting a two for one deal…. :)

  7. Marc M says:

    Good read on indulgences, and appropriate to the day as well:

    Despite the liturgical chaos that people blame on him, Blessed Paul VI wrote some fantastic stuff beyond Humanae Vitae. In the wake of the last couple of weeks, I am trying to remember that the Church and the world fully expected him to change doctrine too, and instead we got HV, arguably one of the most important documents of the 20th century.

  8. Marc M says:

    *should read more clearly- the world expected a change in doctrine, the Church expected at least a tossing out of practice. The liberal reformer Blessed Paul VI emphatically disappointed the progressives.

  9. Geoffrey says:

    Two questions:
    (1) What about during a ‘sede vacante’?
    (2) Can the Pope obtain indulgences?

  10. Giuseppe says:

    I thought the same thing – I thought that when we prayed for the intentions of the Pope, that we were adding a little ‘oopmh’ to whatever the Holy Father happened to be praying for at the time. I was not aware that his intentions were published monthly.
    Happy Blessed Paul VI day! As Pope Paul VI promulgated Humanae Vitae while many argued for liberalization, so too will Pope Francis promulgate a strict one marriage is forever policy (although he will undo this by making annulments readily available through Catholic divorce lawyers.)

  11. Allan S. says:

    This is certainly a stumbling block for me. My usual prayer for the Pope is the one that includes “…and deliver him not up to the will of his enemies.” I am not entirely certain that such a thing would be bad…or more accurately, I cannot be certain that it would be good. So, instead I alter the prayer to “and deliver him not up to the will of the enemies of thy Church.” If they are the same thing, so much the better. If not…so much the better.

  12. The Masked Chicken says:

    “Can the Pope obtain indulgences?”

    Of course.

    What about during a ‘sede vacante’?

    Yes. Keep praying for the printed intentions that were established to be prayed for. In this case, possibly, Ecclesia supplet, which means, “the Church supplies.” This is, usually, applied to juridical matters. Here is Dr. Ed Peter’s commentary:

    The Chicken

  13. gsk says:

    Funny, I have been struggling with this very question lately. When I arrive at the prayers for his intentions at the end of my daily Rosary, I admit my heart isn’t in it. As confusing as his agenda seems (apart from the monthly, posted intentions) I wonder if I’m praying that this confusion prevails, which is obviously problematic. I know God will sort it out, but I’ve actually considered dropping them for the time being.

  14. jmgarciajr says:

    Two things:

    1- In lieu of polemical (or even semi-polemical) voicings of opinions I have resolved to more diligently go to Adoration and Confession, and to more seriously focus my intentions for daily Mass and daily Rosary. Better for my state of mind, better for my soul, and better for the Church and all who lead her.

    2- Is there a link anywhere (doesn’t have to be in English) to the various plenary indulgence “opportunities” available for the next 12 months?

  15. Gregg the Obscure says:

    A handy compendium of plenary indulgences is here. They also list partial indulgences separately. Those who join the Rosary Confraternity are eligible for some additional indulgences: here.

    My morning prayers occur during a morning walk, so they don’t work for reading anything. Still I must own up that I sometimes modify the stated intentions a bit by intent rather than by fault of memory. I’ve ended up adding “in all truth” to this month’s Mission intention and “particularly those afflicted by strife in Holy Church” to the General intention.

  16. wheatthatspringethgreen says:

    Thank you, father, very helpful.

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