Pope Francis celebrates 175 years of his Worldwide Prayer Network
and 10 years of its recreation process
On June 28th and 29th, the Apostleship of Prayer —now the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network— celebrated its 175th anniversary in Vatican City with the Holy Father and more than 5,000 guests at an International Gathering.
(July 1st, Vatican City) – The Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network(Apostleship of Prayer) —including the Eucharistic Youth Movement (EYM)— dressed up on June 28th and 29th to commemorate a special occasion: it celebrated 175 years since its foundation (on December 3rd, 2019), and above all, it celebrated 10 years since the beginning of its recreation process. The anniversary was celebrated in Vatican City with an International Meeting attended by some 52 delegations of the Prayer Network from the five continents, representing more than 5,000 people. Pope Francis also made an act of presence, on the first day, to accompany the faithful on this special event and to pray with them for the challenges of humanity and the mission of the Church, which he entrusts each month to his Prayer Network.
The general direction and coordination of this two-day event was under the responsibility of Fr. Frédéric Fornos, SJ, —the International Director of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, appointed by the Holy Father in 2016— and his international team. In addition to these 175 years of history, the anniversary also commemorated the 10 years since the process of recreation of the Apostleship of Prayer (now a pontifical work) began, which was approved by Pope Francis five years ago.
The celebrations coincided with two special feasts of the liturgical year. On June 28th it was the Solemnity of the Heart of Jesus —the spiritual foundation of the Prayer Network for a mission of compassion for the world— and on June 29th it was the joint solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, two leading apostles of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, and of its youth branch, the EYM. St. Francis Xavier and St. Therese of Lisieux are their patrons.
June 28 – International Meeting with the Pope: “The heart of the Church’s mission is prayer”
The inauguration of this anniversary, on June 28th, was chosen on the occasion of the Solemnity of the Heart of Jesus, the annual feast of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network. The organizing team of the event invited each national team to accompany the celebration from their own countries during these days, or to come to Rome to unite in prayer and joy with all the faithful. Delegations from Europe, America, Africa, South Asia and Asia-Oceania were present.
The International Encounter opened the doors of the Paul VI Hall at 8 am, when the different regions that make up the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network stated coming in. At 10, Fr. Frédéric Fornos, SJ, gave the welcome speech, followed by an institutional video of the Prayer Network, in which representatives from around the world reaffirmed their commitment to mobilizing the world’s Catholics through prayer and action, and to respond to the challenges of humanity and the mission of the Church. Afterwards, the Eucharistic Youth Movement (EYM) was introduced: this international movement of Christian formation for children and young people, present in many parishes, actively participates in the dynamic of prayer and service that characterizes the whole Prayer Network, helping everybody to grow in friendship with Jesus. After sharing a video clip of the EYM, representatives from the regions of the United States, Paraguay and France shared their experience through videos, songs and various presentations. Representatives from Brazil and several African countries gave their testimonies on the process of recreation of the Apostleship of Prayer. The presentation offered by the Italian network with the National School of Choreography was particularly impressive. After bringing forth projects such as “The Pope’s Video” and “Click To Pray”, which are a part of this recreation process, a new initiative was introduced in order to consolidate the educational itinerary of the Pope’s Prayer Network: “The Way of the Heart”, with its own website and mobile app.
At about 12, after a brief introduction by Fr. Frédéric Fornos, SJ, and with the presence of Fr. Arturo Sosa, SJ —Superior General of the Society of Jesus—, Pope Francis joined in the celebration of the 175 years of his Prayer Network and the 10 years of its re-founding. Representatives of 6 delegations gave their testimony to the Holy Father about the joy and profound experience they lived in praying for his intentions and discovering The Way of the Heart. Francis, after listening to each one of them and greeting them personally, addressed all those present expressing his gratitude its work and reaffirmed his Prayer Network in “the foundation of its mission: the compassion for the world.” In his speech, he reminded everyone that “the heart of the Church’s mission is prayer.” He also turned his gaze towards the Society of Jesus, acknowledging its commitment after so many years, and he specially thanked Fr. Frédéric Fornos, SJ, for his “dedication and creativity.”
Afterwards, on perhaps one of the most important moments of the event, the Holy Father created an imposing atmosphere of silence and recollection in the Paul VI Hall, after which he took the opportunity to pray, with all the guests, the prayer of the 175 years for his intentions and the mission of the Church.
Around 13:15, words of gratitude were pronounced, closing the Encounter, and the Pope withdrew from Paul VI Hall greeting the audience with joy.
June 28 – Mass in St. John Lateran
The 175th anniversary of the Pope’s Worldwide Network of Prayer continued with a Eucharistic celebration in the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran —the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome. The Mass began at 7 p.m. and was presided over by Fr. Arturo Sosa, SJ, and concelebrated by the continental coordinators of the Prayer Network. Fr. Frédéric Fornos, SJ, was in charge of giving the homily, in which he remarked how the Way of the Heart is a school of mercy that transforms us to enter into a mission of compassion for the world. “This is how our mission is summed up,” observed the International Director. “To have the gaze and gestures of Jesus towards others, for the world, offering our life. And so, with our prayer (which is already a way of loving), we can lead men and women, and the challenges of our time, to the Heart of Christ, a mission of compassion for the world.”
The Mass ended at 8:30 p.m.
June 29 – Meeting of the National Directors of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network
The second day of celebrations brought together, in a historic meeting, the directors and national coordinators of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network and its youth branch (EYM), who were summoned at 9.30 a.m. to the headquarters of the General Curia of the Society of Jesus in Rome. At 10 a.m. the day began with the opening remarks by Fr. Frédéric Fornos, SJ.
The guests were gathered until noon. During this time, they shared different ongoing projects in order to consolidate the recreation process that the Prayer Network is living and to go in depth in its spiritual foundation: the Way of the Heart. Everybody exchanged their own experiences, challenges and work methodologies.
Towards the end of the meeting, Fr. Arturo Sosa, SJ, joined in, expressing his gratitude to all for this recreation process that the former Superior General, Fr. Adolfo Nicolás, SJ, had launched in 2009. He also reaffirmed the support that the Society of Jesus offers to this pontifical work, stressing its open nature in the mission of compassion for the world.
June 29 – Feast of the EYM: “United in Your love”
On Saturday afternoon, June 29th, it was the turn of the youth branch of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network to join this special commemoration and close it after two days of celebrations.
The EYM emerged as a branch of the Apostleship of Prayer in 1915 and adopted its present name in 1962.
The commemorative event began at 6 pm. when Fr. Frédéric Fornos, SJ, and his international team (with the support of EYM Italy) gathered all the young people, monitors and animators of the EYM in the Chapel of the University of Rome La Sapienza. At 6:30 pm the official opening of the meeting took place. The International Director recalled the experience of the disciples on the road to Emmaus: when hearing the word of God, they recognized Him, the resurrected one, at the breaking of the bread. And then they went out spreading the good news with the joy that a new life in Christ brings along. He also recalled how this Eucharistic way that the EYM proposes opens a way of living.
At 8 pm, after boys and girls from all over the world shared dinner, the Cultural Festival began. Fr. Frédéric Fornos and S. Lourdes Varguez, RJM, welcomed all the different delegations present. The EYM Musical Band entertained the guests throughout the whole time, offering shows and songs in different languages. There were also integration activities for everyone. Delegations from many countries delivered special presentations in a very joyful atmosphere.
The exchange of the “United in Your love” bracelets was a very special moment, and served as a way of integration, of sharing and of remembering all those who could not come. After thanking EYM Italy and its national director, Fr. Andrea Piccau, SJ, Fr. Frédéric Fornos, SJ, and Br. Lourdes Varguez, RJM, put the event to an end after 10:30 pm.
The summary by the International Director of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network
Fr. Frédéric Fornos, SJ, emphasized that beyond the founding of the Apostleship of Prayer in 1844 —in his words, “an event in our history”—, what was celebrated during these two days was the present of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, today a pontifical work, after 175 years and after 10 years since its re-founding. “Our birthday leads us to thank the Lord for His faithfulness, to look at the way He acted today as he did yesterday, and to open ourselves even more to His mission of compassion for the world.
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Let us together, with joy and prayer, celebrate the existence of the Apostleship of Prayer over the past 175 years.