ROSARIO, Argentina — Popes have long issued monthly prayer intentions, but they’ve never done so in the form of a personal video. Starting Wednesday, that’s exactly what Francis plans to do, starring in his own monthly appeal for prayer on a specific theme.
The initiative comes from a Jesuit-run global prayer network called the Apostleship of Prayer, with the help of a consulting firm and the support of the Vatican’s Television Center. Known as “The pope’s video,” they’ll be released monthly Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, with Francis reflecting on one particular topic.
The debut video, being released on the feast of the Epiphany, will be on the theme of interreligious dialogue. It corresponds with this month’s prayer intention, which is “that sincere dialogue among men and women of different faiths may produce the fruits of peace and justice.”
Three of Francis’ closest friends from Argentina are also featured in January’s video: Islamic leader Omar Abboud, Rabbi Daniel Goldman, and Rev. Guillermo Marco, a Catholic priest. Completing the line-up is a Buddhist lama.
“In a world where everything pushes towards fragmentation, opposition, and division, it’s more than ever necessary that religions and persons that hope for peace, brotherhood, and solidarity mobilize together on common projects,” said the Rev. Frédéric Fornos, managing director of the Pope’s Global Prayer Network.
The videos should be seen as a challenge from Francis to humanity, he said.
Fornos — who, like Pope Francis, is a Jesuit — is the head of the international Apostleship of Prayer, an outreach program that since 1890 has been distributing the pope’s monthly prayer intentions. Generally there are two such intentions, one “for the whole world,” aimed at all people of good will, and one known as “the missionary intention,” for the spread of the Gospel.
The videos will be based on the first, more universal theme.
“Religions, more than ever, must show that they can move together for common challenges facing humanity in the service of peace, brotherhood and solidarity,” Fornos said.
The apostleship website currently posts videos about the pope’s monthly prayer intentions, but recorded by various people.
The idea to make these intentions into short videos by the pope, aiming to reach up to 30 million people in 10 different languages, came from La Machi, a boutique consulting firm with offices in Rome, Argentina, and Barcelona.
Juan Della Torre, founder of the agency, told Crux that the idea has been simmering for several years, since the firm launched the app “Click to Pray” for the Apostleship of Prayer in Portugal. At the moment, the Global Prayer Network is being renovated, a process started by emeritus Pope Benedict XVI and continued under Francis.
“We wanted to use new technologies to spread the pope’s prayer intentions, and our research showed that viral videos is the best way to do so,” Della Torre said.
He also said that helping the Church has been a long-time dream for La Machi. Doing the videos with and for the pope, he added “seemed crazy at the beginning, but one of those crazy ideas that, I hope, lead to the Holy Spirit.”
February’s video will be about care for creation, according to Della Torre; March’s theme will be the family, perhaps in conjunction with Francis’ highly-anticipated concluding document from the Synod of Bishops on the family.
Although the release date for that text, technically called an apostolic exhortation, hasn’t been formally announced by the Vatican, sources have told Crux it will come out that month.