Pope Francis has urged Christians to pray for their leaders even if they do not agree with their politics, saying that 'not to pray for leaders is a sin'.
The Pope, who was reflecting on the day's Bible readings during Mass at the Casa Santa Marta yesterday, asked those present to make an examination of conscience regarding their prayer for leaders, and asked leaders, too, to pray for the common good.
He said: 'I ask you this favour: every one of you take five minutes, no more. If you are a leader, ask yourself: "Do I pray to the One who gave me power through the people?" If you are not a leader, "Do I pray for my leaders? Yes, for this one and that one, yes, because I like them; but for that one, no." They need it so much more for this reason! "Do I pray for all leaders?" And if you find in your examination of conscience before Confession that you have not prayed for your leaders, bring it to Confession. Because not to pray for leaders is a sin.'
According to Vatican Radio, Pope Francis took as his starting point the First Reading from St Paul's Letter to Timothy, in which Paul asks that 'supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings' be offered 'for kings and for all in authority'. In yesterday's Gospel, a Roman leader, the centurion, prays that his servant be healed.
Pope Francis noted that 'this man felt the need to pray' because 'he was aware that he did not have everything under his control...If leaders do not pray, they close themselves off in a self-referential circle or in that of their party, a circle from which they cannot escape'.
Pope Francis went on to talk about the importance leaders praying. 'It is the prayer for the common good of the people with whom they have been entrusted,' he said.
The Pope recalled a conversation with a political leader who spent two hours before God every day, despite being very busy. He said that a leader must ask God for the grace to govern well like Solomon, who asked not for riches and gold but for the wisdom to govern.
'It is very important for leaders to pray, asking the Lord not to take away the awareness of being subordinate and not to find strength in a little group or in myself,' the Pope said.
Addressing leaders who may be atheists or agnostic, he added: 'If you cannot pray, confront yourself with your conscience, with the wisdom of your people, but do not remain isolated with the small group of your political party.'