ASK FATHER: Priest’s blessings by telephone

From a reader…


I know of a priest who imparts blessings over the telephone. Is this valid?

The Holy Father has the authority to impart a blessing by means of electronic transmission. The faithful, who are unable to be present where the Holy Father imparts, for example, the “urbi et orbi” blessing, may receive the indulgence if they devotedly follow the rites through TV or radio while the rite is being performed.

Other than that, I think that imparting and receiving a priestly blessing requires some form of physical presence.

Of course there is the more casual sort of way of blessing someone, to invoke God’s favor on people.  In that case, there is no problem at all.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Interestingly, priests who do exorcisms say telephone exorcisms can work to an extent. If an exorcism can be done via telephone, perhaps blessings can too.

  2. Gaz says:

    Father’s customary “God bless!” At the end of a phone call is most efficacious!

  3. little women says:

    This is so interesting. I know a priest on the other side of the country who always ends his conversation with, “Let me give your family a blessing.” He then gives (or attempts to give) a formal blessing. I never gave it a thought until now.

  4. Boniface says:

    NB: the pope also gives blessings by letter, or by proxy.

    I knew an elderly priest – an absolute saint, now gone to his reward – who once gave me a blessing over the phone across several states – in Latin! What a great man he was, who brought many to Christ.

  5. As Catholics slide further and further toward persecution and isolation, perhaps all priests should be given the authority to impart blessings via electronic transmission.

  6. Elizabeth D says:

    So EWTN priests aren’t really blessing you? :-(

  7. The Masked Chicken says:

    I can see it, now…robo-priests – a radio-controlled robot in cassock with a speaker attached, so that a priest sitting in a remote location can send out 20 of these to give remote blessings. Boy, talk about foreshadowing the Papal Mainframe of Dr. Who…

    The Chicken

  8. iPadre says:

    I am of the opinion that the blessing of a priest is really the blessing of Christ since his acts In Persona Christi. Jesus healed the sick from afar. “It is not I who live, but He who lives within me.” For years, I have always sent a blessing to my parents and others before going to bed.

  9. Elizabeth D says:

    I think you are probably right, iPadre.

  10. Suzanne Carl says:

    In times of great distress, my loving Pastor has prayed with me by phone, asking for blessings and deliverance. I thank God for his assistance.

  11. Stephen Matthew says:

    I thought there was some clarification on this point relating specifically to the blessing given while watching or listening to a mass live via TV/radio, so long as the celebrant intended to bless those participating remotely? I may be mistaken.

    There does seem to be a potential problem of jurisdiction, however, regarding constitutive blessings. The Pope, having universal jurisdiction, can bless anyone, anywhere, from anywhere. However, the priest of some particular parish would not reasonably be thought to have the authority to dispense blessings to people who live on the far side of the planet and are subject to some other ecclesiastical authority.

    So, perhaps jurisdiction is a sticking point for blessing remotely?

    However, it seems an invocative blessing could always be given, even if a constitutive one could not be.

  12. Iustinius Defensor says:

    Going off of the jurisdiction issue. If a Pope’s blessing is universal because he has universal jurisdiction, is the blessing of a bishop for the entirety of his diocese? Is the blessing of a pastor for the entirety of the parish bounds?

  13. Fr. Cole says:

    I have frequent phone interaction with Missionaries of Charity sisters and it is common for them to ask for a blessing before you end the conversation.

  14. THREEHEARTS says:

    Of course it was only Fr John Hardon who blessed me over the ‘phone. Seems like it did not count for much but it sure did for me

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