Everyday when I step out of my house to go to work I bow my head before the God I worship, and I’m sure it is the same with most of us. We always pray for ourselves that we may go out and be back home safe, or praying for a promotion or a deal to be signed, or for achieving goals set for the month. How often is it that we pray for those who are around us? We all may have different faiths and religions and we honor the almighty in our own way. Religion is defined as “an order of existence” by the anthropologists. Over 100s of religions are currently practiced throughout the world. Its one element that unites and divides thousands of people at the same time. In today’s time-line when the world peace and humanity is dwindling, measures by various people are being taken to restore world peace, nature, and recreate values to make world a better place. One such religious leader is making an appreciable effort, the highly esteemed Pope Francis of Catholic Church. The Pope had on December 7, 2015 declared year 2016 as the ‘Holy year of Mercy’ along with the Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI. It was also the first time two pontiffs together launched a jubilee year.
Pope Francis together with other religious leaders has launched a video message portal, The Pope Video. It is a global initiative developed by the Pope's Worldwide Prayer Network (Apostleship of Prayer) to assist in the dissemination of the Holy Father’s monthly intentions related to the challenges the humanity faces. Going by the monthly prayer intentions of the Pope its very apparent that his genuine concerns lie not just with uniting the faiths but also raising issues that needs much resolution. There’s diversity in the editorial board as well which constitutes of the leaders Pope is working together with. I would like to highlight each month’s prayer intention one by one up till present:
Inter-religious dialogue (January 2016)
January’s prayer intention began with a harmonious intermingling of men and women from different faiths which may produce the fruits of justice and peace. In the video released, we can see religious leaders from faiths Buddhism, Judaism, Islam and Christianity coming together as ‘children of one God’. He sends out this strong message of “One World Religion” in a minute and a half long video. Pope Francis also states “we are all children of God” irrespective of which religion or faith we belong to, since many feel differently, think differently but the one thing that is certain is being children of God. He highlights the importance of inter-religious dialogue and the beliefs different faiths hold in common, such as the figure of God and love. It is important for people to understand that this dialogue involves more than talking, it involves listening as well. Talk, hear out each other is the message. So with this he sincerely hopes to bring all denominations of faith together on one page.
Care for Creation (February 2016)
Drawing our attention to our mother earth and environment Pope Francis placed the second prayer intention of the year- “That we may take good care of creation- a gift freely given- cultivating and protecting it for future generations.” It is no secret how much we humans have exhausted the natural resources available. Increasing pollution and misuse of non-renewable resources might leave nothing to see and utilize for the younger generations to come. Life is a gift, creation is a gift hence, we should appreciate the gift we have received and look after it.
Families in Difficulty (March 2016)
Month of March was dedicated to all families around the world- “That families in need may receive the necessary support and the children may grow up in healthy and peaceful environment.” Family is a circle of strength, crux of every human’s life, and it need not always be blood. It is the best thing one could ever wish for. Most valued asset of human life. But it is our duty to take care of our family to prevent them from crumbling. Often families break due to financial or ethical problems or problems between the spouses which directly-indirectly affect everyone in the home especially children. They need to be brought up in a happy, healthy environment. This is one of the most alarming rising dispute of today’s generation when most marriages are ending up in divorces, children being stranded at orphanages. They are going to be our tomorrow, shouldn’t we be worried how is it going to turn out?
Small Farmers ( April 2016)
In April, we prayed- “That small farmers may receive a just reward for their precious labor.” We need to take time to show our gratitude to small farmers all over the world because of whom we are surviving. To think that one does not depend on the production of the small farmers is absolutely wrong. If you don’t believe me check your package-food information table where you’ll notice the main ingredient is something that comes from the farm and who runs the farm- farmers. With this prayer intention Pope Francis also draws our attention towards every being who is of some help to us in some way, which we shouldn’t overlook. We should acknowledge them doing their job so that we can eat and live and do our job. Many at times the small farms go out of business, often large agri-businesses acquire the land and create greater potential for ecological damage and health risks. For Pope Francis small farmers are essential to caring for the earth and safeguarding it for future generations Agricultural workers should receive a just wage. As the pope said, “The labor of those who cultivate the earth, generously dedicating time and energy to it, appears as a genuine vocation. It deserves to be recognized and appropriately appreciated, also in concrete economic policies.”
Respect for Women (May 2016)
May is the month honored in the reverence of Mother Mary, so, it was very apt for Pope Francis to assign this month in honor of women- “That in every country of the world, women may be honored and respected and that their essential contribution to society may be highly esteemed. This month we also celebrated Mothers’ day all over the world. In the words of Pope Francis, Mary is “the true and sublime example of woman.” Women have an irreplaceable role, says Pope Francis. He encourages the contribution of women working within the family, areas of preaching faith, schooling, social, cultural and economic structures. Throughout the world the women unfortunately not only are excluded, but under attack. Women are caught in many forms of slavery, of prostitution, of mutilation of the female body, which requires us to set to work to defeat these forms of degradation which reduce it to purely an object to be sold on the various markets. “We have done little for the women,” says the Pope. He asks, is it enough to only recognize their contribution? Therefore, he sends out the message in his May prayer video issuing a global petition that women in all countries would be respected and valued, asking if the mere recognition of their role is enough, or if more can be done.
Human Solidarity (June 2016)
Prayer intention for June is- “That the aged, marginalized, and those who have no one may find- even within the huge cities of the world- opportunities for encounter and solidarity.” Right on point, Pope brings in focus the prejudices and treatment faced by those people whom others think are different, or old, or not like everyone else. We should be more tolerant towards people around us, and not because someone told one to be, but because that is how solidarity will spread around. Solidarity recognizes that every human soul is created by God, thus, all people are equal before God and deserve respect. A contemporary error is disregard for the law of human solidarity and charity, which the Pope hopes to re-cultivate among humans from the example shown in the video. Don’t you like it when you make someone happy, or better, when someone brings a smile on your face with their actions? I bet you do. Come together, care for each other.
It is an innovative attempt to reach out to people in a modern and powerful way. I think his efforts truly make it apt for us to call him “The People’s Pope”. We are looking forward to the next six prayer intentions to be taken up in next six months. He is doing his own bit and setting an amazing example for us to follow upon. Now, it is our turn to do our bit for the world.