ASK FATHER: The historic, generic “intentions of the Holy Father”


A request was made to explain again how to pray for the “Holy Father’s intentions”, which we do especially when we want to gain indulgences.

This question has been put to me in a couple of ways, for example, “What if I think the intention that the Pope wants me to pray for is dopey?” or “What if I am convinced that he isn’t really the Pope?”

Without going into the foundation of either of those reasons, there are historic which are also generic intentions which the Church had designated for a long time in the 1917 Code of Canon Law (not in the current Code).   Manuals of moral theology, such as those by Tanquerey, Noldin, and Prümmer also list them.

Prümmer says that the intentions of the Holy Father for which we are to pray have a tradition of five basic categories which were fixed:

1. Exaltatio S. Matris Ecclesiae (Triumph/elevation/stablity/growth of Holy Mother Church)
2. Extirpatio haeresum (Extirpation/rooting out of heresies),
3. Propagatio fidei (Propagation/expansion/spreading of the Faith)
4. Conversio peccatorum (Conversion of sinners),
5. Pax inter principes christianos (Peace between christian rulers).

These five categories were also listed in the older, 1917 Code of Canon Law, which is now superseded by the 1983 Code.

NB: The consumption of the moral theology volumes of Tanquerey is sometimes accompanied by the consumption of volumes of Tanqueray.

A more extensive discussion of this topic is HERE.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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


    For years I’ve solved the problem by echoing my dear late friend who usually lead the rosary before Mass at my FSSP parish.

    Jeff would always pray, “For the intentions of the Holy Father, inasmuch as they are pleasing to God.”

    I think that safely and charitably covers it for anyone who accepts Francis as pope.

  2. Cornelius says:

    I’ve substituted ” . . . and for the permanent intentions of the Holy See.”

    I’m in the camp that thinks we lack a Holy Father altogether.

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