By Sarah Mac Donald - 09 January, 2016
Pope Francis began the new year by launching his first-ever videoed prayer intention in which he focuses on inter-faith dialogue.
The 90-second video features a Buddhist, a Muslim, as well as Christian and Jewish leaders.
In the past, popes have released their monthly prayer intentions through a brief text.
However, the Vatican this week said that Pope Francis will be making his intentions from now on in video format with help from the international group Apostleship of Prayer, a Jesuit outreach that has given Catholics the pope’s monthly prayer intentions since 1890.
The videos are to be made available in ten languages.
In his prayer message, the Pope asks people to join him in praying that inter-religious dialogue leads to “peace and justice.”
“Many think differently, feel differently, they seek God or meet God in different ways. In this crowd, in this range of religions, there is only one certainty we have for all: We are all children of God,” the Pope says in the video.
The Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim and Catholic religious leaders first declare their personal beliefs before each one declares, “I believe in love.”
“I hope you will spread my prayer request this month that sincere dialogue among men and women of different faiths may produce the fruits of peace and justice. I trust in your prayers,” the Pontiff states.
Pope Francis will deliver his monthly prayer intentions on video over social media throughout the Holy Year of Mercy.
The video can be viewed at http://thepopevideo.org/en/video/interreligious-dialogue.html
Speaking to CatholicIreland.net, Jesuit Fr Barney McGuckian said the focus on inter-religious dialogue was “further incontrovertible evidence that Pope Francis is a man of dialogue”.
“Like the Divine Master he follows, he is prepared to speak to everyone. This was his reputation long before he was elected Pope,” the Clongowes-based priest said.
“We know from the Scriptures that during His short public life, Jesus spoke to not only to his Jewish brothers and sisters but to people from all sorts of backgrounds and persuasions whether they agreed with him or not; Greeks, Romans, Syro-Phoenicians etc,” Fr McGuckian added.
“St Paul carried on in the same vein at the Areopagus in Athens, in spite of the mocking laughter of some of his hearers.”
“Two of the Pope’s heroes, both called ‘Francis’ did the same. Francis Xavier involved himself in dialogue with the peoples of the East, particularly in Japan where he engaged with the Bonzes. Francis of Assisi crossed the lines of confrontation during the Crusades in Egypt and engaged in friendly dialogue with the Muslim leader, Sultan Al-Kamil, a nephew of the famous Saladin,” he explained.
“The dialogue anticipated by Old Testament prophecy must continue. ‘It is not enough for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back the survivors of Israel; I shall make you a light to the nations so that my salvation may reach the remotest parts of earth, (Isaiah 49: 6)” he commented and added that the Internet is making this possible “in ways, never before imagined”.
“I think that the Pope is making an honest attempt to talk to everyone in a language that is accessible to everyone and this includes all of us Irish.”
“What he has to say goes far beyond the limitations of any denominational boundaries. The short January video is just the first in projected series. The plan is to produce one for each month of the year highlighting a different challenge to all of us. It will be very easy to access them.”
In the video, the Pope says “Religions must show that they can act together for peace, brotherhood and solidarity.”
According to Fr McGuckian, “Peace, brotherhood and solidarity are universal human values rooted in human nature. We must all promote them, regardless of the differences in our beliefs.”
He added that Pope Francis accepts the Christian idea that grace builds on our God-given human nature, leading it to higher levels of love and compassion.
“I do not think that he is questioning the sincerely held fundamental beliefs of anyone but if these lead to entrenchment and unwillingness to engage at any level with others, his way of proceeding must constitute a challenge.”
This is a global initiative developed by the Pope’s Worldwide Network of Prayer and is set to reach 30 million people.
Fr McGuckian explained that the Pope’s worldwide Network of Prayer is a further development of the Apostleship of Prayer, founded in 1844 by Jesuits in France, to promote Devotion to the Heart of Jesus, the Universal Saviour.
“Within a short time it was accepted all around the Catholic world, especially in Ireland. The Messenger is still the official organ of this work in Ireland. Worldwide it influences the devotion of vast numbers each month.”
He said that in Ireland, the Apostleship of Prayer touched a deep chord in many hearts from the time it was first introduced in 1889 and still does and that by modern means of communication. It is hoped that this message of hope and encouragement can be brought to even greater numbers.
The video project was conceived and created by La Machi Communications, which also has its own websites and social networks.
Fr McGuckian told CatholicIreland.net about the background to the communications project and the links with Ireland.
“The main inspiration of this development comes from a young French Jesuit, Frederic Fornos. He successfully put the Apostleship of Prayer on a new footing in France, using the modern means of communication to get the message across.”
“About two years ago he was appointed over-all Director of the Apostleship of Prayer at its Head Office in Rome. The Jesuits responsible for promoting the Apostleship of Prayer in Portugal were impressed with the high quality work of La Machi, the Argentinian-based communications group and recommended them to Fr Fornos.”
The short video film produced by La Machi, highlighting the Pope’s Intention for January 2016 will be followed by a new video each month featuring the Pope’s intentions for humanity.
He explained that “Frederic Fornos is perfectly bi-lingual in French and Spanish, and has recently learned Italian and manages quite well in English, with an Irish accent, after spending the last three summers at St Ignatius College, Galway.”
Fr Donal Neary SJ was recently appointed director of the Apostleship of Prayer in Ireland.
More information about the video can be found at www.facebook.com/ElVideodelPapa, where visitors can interact with the community engaged in this initiative.