Vatican City, Feb 4, 2017 / 08:16 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his newest prayer video Pope Francis focused on the poor and refugees, saying we shouldn’t be like immobile mannequin’s when faced with their needs, but must instead reach out and help. “We live in cities that throw up skyscrapers and shopping centers and strike big real estate deals, but they abandon part of themselves to marginal settlements on the periphery,” the Pope said in his prayer video, released Feb. 4.
Francis speaks as the video opens to a scene of people doing a “Mannequin Challenge” -- a viral internet trend where people freeze in their positions as music plays in the background -- on a crowded city street. “The result of this situation is that great sections of the population are excluded and marginalized: without a job, without options, without a way out.”
“Don't abandon them,” he said, as the frozen figures jump into action and help a homeless man hunched by the side of a building. He asked viewers to join him in praying for his February prayer intention, which is “that all those who are afflicted, especially the poor, refugees, and marginalized may find welcome and comfort in our communities.”
The Pope’s prayer is timely, as it falls on the heels of U.S. President Donald Trump’s proposed immigration ban, which would halt the influx of refugees into the U.S., except in the cases of religious minorities fleeing persecution. Part of the ban could also mean suspending visas issued to persons from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, and Libya. The temporary ban could last four months, and presidential approval could be required to renew refugee resettlement from Syria.
Pope Francis has not made any comment on the issue, however, American Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark said during a recent trip to Rome that the Pope thinks the country’s bishops are giving the issue “a Gospel response,” and doesn’t feel the need to intervene.
Francis’ prayer intention this month also draws on his “urgent intention” for January, which was dedicated to homeless persons forced to stay out on the streets during the winter. An initiative of the Jesuit-run Apostleship of Prayer project, the Pope’s monthly prayer intentions typically focus on things close to his heart, such as the poor and needy, refugees, child soldiers, migrants, families, women, workers, youth, elderly and the unemployed.
Founded by Jesuit seminarians in France in 1884, the Apostleship of Prayer was established as a means of encouraging Christians to serve God and others through prayer, particularly for the needs of the Church. Since its foundation, the organization has received a monthly universal prayer intention from the Pope, but in 1929 an additional “evangelization intention” was added, aimed at the faithful in particular.
However, after nearly 100 years, Francis has decided to return to the old system and will alternate between universal and evangelistic themes each month, with a specific “urgent” intention being announced during his first Angelus address of the month. According to the Apostleship of Prayer’s website, the Pope’s additional urgent intention will focus on “current events or urgent needs,” such as disaster relief, and will “help mobilize prayer and action related to the urgent situation.”
The videos on the prayer intentions were launched as part of a project specifically for the Jubilee of Mercy, and marked the first time his prayer intentions had been featured on video as part of an initiative called “The Pope Video.” Although the Jubilee has ended, the videos will continue throughout 2017. The intentions for the rest of the year have already been listed on the Apostleship of Prayer’s website.