Pope Francis Says to Pray for Political Leaders

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Filippo Monteforte / AFP / Getty Images

Pope Francis prays in Saint Peter square at the Vatican on Sept. 7, 2013. Pope Francis has called for a global day of fasting and prayer on Saturday for peace in Syria and against any armed intervention.

Every morning, Pope Francis celebrates mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae. The service is small and intimate—usually fifty or so people attend—and the Holy Father preaches spontaneously in Italian to set the tone for the day. Today he had a political message on his mind: meddle in politics.

Meddling, according to Pope Francis, may look different than many people initially think. “A good Catholic meddles in politics, offering the best of himself, so that those who govern can govern. But what is the best that we can offer to those who govern? Prayer!” he preached. “That’s what Paul says: ‘Pray for all people, and for the king and for all in authority.’”

Prayers can be simple, the Pope explained. Pray that the leader, man or woman, can govern well, love their people, serve their people, and remain humble. Pray even if the leader is wicked or has problems—then one’s prayer can be that the leader would change his ways. “A Christian who does not pray for those who govern is not a good Christian,” he said.

Political prayer is necessary because people participate in their leaders decisions, whether they acknowledge it or not. “None of us can say, ‘I have nothing to do with this, they govern.’ No, no, I am responsible for their governance, and I have to do the best so that they govern well, and I have to do my best by participating in politics according to my ability,” he said. “Politics, according to the Social Doctrine of the Church, is one of the highest forms of charity, because it serves the common good. I cannot wash my hands, eh? We all have to give something!”

The Pope’s message extended to those in positions of political power. He argued that are two virtues a true leader needs to govern: love for the people and humility. “And every man, every woman who has to take up the service of government, must ask themselves two questions: ‘Do I love my people in order to serve them better? Am I humble and do I listen to everybody, to diverse opinions in order to choose the best path?’” he asked. “If you don’t ask those questions, your governance will not be good.”

Pope Francis has been modeling the prayerful political engagement he preaches. His message comes a week after he led a global day of prayer for peace in Syria and the Middle East. Earlier this month, he wrote a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, host of the G-20 summit, urging world leaders to oppose military intervention in Syria.