Pope Francis has offered Catholics a new way to pray that requires no kneeling, no folded hands — only a faithful connection to the internet.
The pope last week unveiled his Click To Pray app, which the Vatican described as the “official app of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network that revolutionizes praying.” Catholics can click on the mobile phone app, or log into a website, and pray to support the pope’s causes and their own.
Pope Francis displayed the app during his weekly address at St. Peter’s Square. The priest standing next to him held an iPad, as the pope tapped the screen before the crowd below.
“Did I do it?” he asked, according to media reports.
The app was launched just days ahead of the Catholic World Youth Day, which the Vatican says will draw at least 150,000 young people to the celebration in Panama. It allows the pope to connect with young people where they are at — on their mobile phones and tablets.
“With Click To Pray, prayer is now easier as you can do it at anytime and anywhere,” according to the app’s promotions. “Connect yourself with thousands of people who pray every day for the challenges of humanity and for the mission of the Church as the Pope proposes in his monthly prayer intentions.”
The app has three sections. One allows users to read “Pray with the Pope,” which involves reading Pope Francis’ monthly prayer intentions and clicking a box to show they’re praying for them, too.
Another section offers three daily prayers, which users are encouraged to read morning, noon and night. After reading them, they click on a box — and their prayers head to heaven.
A “Jesus in the Afternoon” prayer this week, for example, said: “The most radical antidote to the virus of falsehood is purification by the truth. Lord, may I seek to pray truthfully, each and every day.”
The faithful can also link to an online prayer network where they can post their own prayer on a message board to be shared in the pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network. The network, as described by the Vatican, is a place where “we pray and work to meet the challenges of the world identified by the Pope.”
The new app received mixed reviews in Minnesota. Conversations with a half-dozen students at the University of St. Thomas didn’t indicate wild excitement — just curiosity.
Sara Kitze, a graduate student from Minneapolis, says with so many young Catholics drifting from their faith, it makes sense that the pope would try to meet them through their phones and iPads. “What does he have to lose?” asked Kitze, 26. “It’s worth a try.”
Young adults also like instant gratification, she added, and tapping a box after reading a prayer is fast and easy.
“But is that what the church wants?” Kitze asked. “Just because you’re praying with the pope, it doesn’t mean you’re going to church.”
Tanner Hopkins, 19, an electrical engineering student, said his father told him about the app earlier this week. He tried to open it on his phone, but had connection problems.
“This seems like something for people already committed to the church, to strengthen their bonds,” said Hopkins. “It’s not great evangelization.”
But the Vatican may be able to mine information from the app, such as what papal messages best resonate with young people, and that could be useful, he said.
The app is available in six languages, which should cover most of Minnesota’s estimated 1 million Catholics. Young people may be drawn to an online “prayer wall,” for posting personal concerns. “We pray for you and you pray for us,” the app says. “You will never be alone.”
In fact, Click To Pray reported more than 1 million prayers as of Friday.