ASK FATHER: Praying for the Holy Father’s Intentions

Mass purgatory indulgencesFrom a reader…


When praying for an indulgence, is it better / okay to pray for Holy Father’s HOLY intentions, rather than simply his intentions?

These days it seems that – laying aside his published universal intentions – some of his intentions as implied by his actions are not ones that I want to pray for.

The conditions for obtaining an indulgence include praying for the Holy Father’s intentions.  That means praying for the intentions that he designates.  Right?  That seems fairly clear.

It may be that in a given month you know the intentions, or you don’t know the intentions.  In that case you pray in a generic way for his intentions.  One can, I suppose, pray for the Holy Father’s intentions in a generic way that is founded in our tradition, that is to say, for the sort of intentions that Pope’s have designated going way back.  That seems safe enough for a generic prayer for the Holy Father’s intentions.

When I answered a question about this once before, one of the comments included a great synopsis of the Pontiff’s intentions taken from Prümmer’s Manuale (vol. III, no. 556).  Prümmer says that “Intentions of the Holy Father” which we pray for in the course of obtaining an Indulgence, are a five-fold set which tradition (and the former Congregations) fixed as such, namely:

1. Exaltatio S. Matris Ecclesiæ (The triumph/growth of holy mother the Church),
2. Extirpatio hæresum (The rooting out of heresy),
3. Propagatio fidei (The propogation of the Faith)
4. Conversio peccatorum (The conversion of sinners),
5. Pax inter principes christianos (Peace among christian rulers).

None of these require any head scratching.

It seems to me that were one to be unaware of what the Holy Father’s assigned intentions were for a specific month, one could feasibly pray, in a generic way, “for the Holy Father’s intentions”, and have in mind, at least, those five intentions we have from tradition.

It is not very hard these days to find the Pope’s intentions each month, but we are not obliged to look them up.  After all, “fasting” from too much time on the internet is probably beneficial for us.

One should also pray for the Holy Father himself as well, not just for his intentions.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Hubby and I just say, “For the intentions of the Holy Father: ” and then we continue with the prayer/prayers. We don’t look up the intentions to see what they actually are. We also pray for the Holy Father himself each evening during the children’s bedtime prayers.

  2. Susan G says:

    I’ve been praying specifically recently for the “public intentions of Pope Francis”. That way if I don’t look them up each month, I still feel I am specifying the intentions he has published as his designated intentions. I like the idea of these five intentions. I may praying for them specifically. Thank you for this post, Father Z. Your last one on this subject was posted around the time I began to feel troubled by the generic phrase, and you so eloquently posted about the meaning of the phrase “intentions of the Pope”.

  3. Matt Robare says:

    I would imagine that there’s long been a distinction between the Pope’s intentions as the Pope and an individual pope’s desires or will. Presumably, the inhabitants of a city beseiged by Pope Julius II would not be wrong to pray both for his intentions and his defeat.

  4. Ed the Roman says:

    Speaking as a fool in this, it might be good for us to pray for the Holy Father’s intentions on the basis that they are his, doing this as a matter of humility and obedience. I do not worry that a prayer that I make in innocently ignorant error will be granted to ill effect.

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