ROME – From the opening seconds in March 2013, it was clear that Pope Francis wants people to pray for him, for his pontificate, for the challenges facing humanity and the mission of the Church he was tapped to lead.
Sunday brought yet another example of the pope’s ardent desire for prayer when he joined the community of over one million people around the world who, in seven languages, use the app “Click to Pray”, the latest papal foray onto a social network.
According to Jesuit Father Frédéric Fornos, a Frenchman and president of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, the app is a tool to join the monthly prayer intention presented by the pope, one of which is dedicated to challenges the world faces and one to those facing the Church.
“It’s so we can mobilize together in prayer and action,” Fornos told Crux on Sunday, minutes after appearing from the window of the papal apartments that overlook St. Peter’s Square.
Fornos, who’s also behind the monthly papal prayer video and who was the architect of Francis’s October campaign for people to pray the rosary for peace, believes that “Click To Pray” is a useful tool for everyone, particularly young people, who want to “enter a path of prayer.”
It’s designed, he said, to help people build a rhythm of daily prayer, “even if just for a few minutes each day.”
The free app, available for Android and IOS, was born in 2015 and created by the communications agency La Machi for Portugal’s section of the Jesuit-run Papal Prayer Network. According to Fornos, when the international network saw what Portugal was doing and the high quality of the product, they decided to get behind it and launch it internationally in six languages: Portuguese, Italian, German, English, Spanish and French.
Next March, the app will also be available in traditional Chinese characters.
In March 2016, the app was presented to Pope Francis during the 100th anniversary of the Youth Eucharistic Movement, and the pope gave it his blessing. During the Jubilee Year of Mercy, the app promoted the monthly papal prayer intentions, allowing those who prayed them to earn a plenary indulgence.
The Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, also known as the Apostleship of Prayer, was born in 1844 when a Jesuit priest wanted for his seminarians to focus more on learning theology than about dreaming of a future missionary post in some far-away land.
Ever since, it’s left the walls of the novitiate for Jesuit students in Vals-près-le-Puy (a central region of France) to become an international movement which, with papal support, addresses the challenges facing humanity and assists the mission of the Church.
By 1849, the Apostleship of Prayer was recognized by Pope Pius IX, and in 1890, Leo XIII entrusted to it his monthly prayer intentions. Every pope since has done so, with Francis taking it a step further by greenlighting a series of videos on the monthly intentions so that they leave the stillness of the parish bulletin and join the 21st century.
The prayer app is divided into three sections, which deliver daily alerts reminding people to “stop for at least a minute, three times a day, to unite our hearts to that of Jesus, and pray for the mission of the Church and placing our lives at its service,” Fornos explained.
Those who want to pray with the pope – who opened a profile on Sunday after the weekly Angelus prayer, while Fornos held a tablet for the pontiff to click on – can do so through the section “Praying with the Network.”
Through his profile, Francis will not only share his monthly prayer intentions in the “Pray with the Pope” section of the app, but also other prayer intentions that will be uploaded, presenting things that are in his heart at that moment.
“We also know how much he asks us to pray for him,” Fornos said. “To pray for the pope is to pray for the challenges of humanity and the entire Church, because we know these are things that he always carries in his heart.”
“Click to Pray” is also the official prayer app for World Youth Day, taking place this week in Panama, where Francis will arrive on Wednesday. Among other things, it promotes the daily prayer of the rosary, something the pontiff has requested.
“In the app, people who don’t know how to pray it will find the instructions, but also meditations for each mystery, so that everyone can pray the rosary for peace, something the Holy Father has requested continue even after World Youth Day,” Fornos said.
Francis is a big promoter of the rosary, which in 2017 he defined as a “synthesis of the mysteries of Christ: we contemplate them with Mary, who allows us to see with her eyes of faith and love.”
Last October, considered by the Catholic Church the “month of Mary,” the pontiff asked Catholics around the world to pray it every day for protection of the Church from the devil.
According to a Vatican statement released at the time, the daily prayer was meant to unite the faithful “in communion and penance, as a people of God, in asking the Holy Mother of God and St. Michael the Archangel to protect the Church from the devil, who always aims to divide us from God and among us.”
In 2013, Francis gave thousands of rosaries away in St. Peter’s Square, and they will be part of the pilgrims’ kit in Panama. In addition, a local female detention center worked for months to create a million rosaries to distribute among participants of this youth event.
Upholding a papal tradition, Francis also gives rosaries to the people he meets, whether during private meetings with personal friends or formal encounters with the world’s dignitaries, sometimes even igniting controversy by sending them through emissaries to people in prison.