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The Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network promotes the monthly prayer intentions of Pope Francis. People from around the world suggest papal prayer intentions in each country to their national office, which selects some of them and sends them to the international office of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network at the Vatican. After the Pope’s prayer and discernment, the official set of monthly prayer intentions, are then translated into the major world languages and published in print and digital formats.
November’s Universal Intention of Pope Francis – Pray with the Pope that the progress of robotics and artificial intelligence may always serve humankind
by Father David Stewart SJ
This month, so many of us continue our fervent prayer for all of humanity, as the whole world continues to suffer from the pandemic, yet we keep in our prayer another concern that will affect us all, now and in the generations that follow us. Pope Francis asks us to pray with him ‘that the progress of robotics and artificial intelligence may always serve humankind’.
When we respond to the Pope’s monthly pleas to pray with him about a specific intention, we commit ourselves to praying with him for the Church’s mission as well as for the challenges that face humanity. There are many such challenges; in recent months, in the Pope’s own prayer-group, we have been invited to pray about just sharing of the planet’s resources, also an immediate threat to future generations. In the Worldwide Prayer Network, we are always praying that we will develop clarity about our own mission in whatever state of life we find ourselves. This was a key reason for praying, in October, about accepting our responsibilities in the Church (and facing the fact that women are often prevented from doing so, for no good reason). Now in November, without ignoring the awful pandemic, we prayerfully ponder the implications for humanity of the technological and digital revolution.
Three proposals for the month ahead
1. While we must continue to pray for progress in the struggle against the virus pandemic, and keep in our prayer those suffering as a result, medically and economically, we could take some time this month to ponder a few instances of where innovation in robotics and digital technology could be harmful to human dignity. Have you noticed instances of this? Are there examples in your own living and experience where this could become a challenge?
2. In most parishes and worshipping communities, physical meetings and gatherings can’t take place at this time. Think of ways in which technical solutions can and do help; are there ways in which you could make more use of such facilities to touch, virtually, someone who is really suffering? Perhaps first, think simply about the telephone or mobile; is there one more person who’d be helped by a phone call from you? Then consider other resources that you could use – videolinks, online conferencing, instant messaging. Could you make greater use of any of these for the good of another sister or brother?
3. Pray, at least once in the month, for the scientists, engineers and experts whose amazing skills and talents are constantly coming up with new technologies; that they may be always guided by human solidarity and dignity.
Our prayer and our hope
Above all, our prayer is our own statement, personally and communally, that there is hope, that nothing is so bleak that it will not be illuminated by the human spirit of God. We would all do well in these times to remind ourselves, and each other, of certain truths on which our hope is built. These truths and this hope are at the heart of why we pray; certainly for those matters that the Pope invites us to consider each month, but also in all of our prayer.
Amid all these technological wonders of our time, prayer is a counter-cultural declaration that humanity is wonderful made by our creator God who knew us in the womb. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that not all prayer must be intercessory, praying ‘for things’. That does matter and must not be dismissed as long as we remember that, at times, we might be praying for this or that which would not actually be good for us or for humanity.
At other times, our intercessory prayer could occasionally risk becoming too self-centred; we must always remember the common good, the good of all people and all of creation. Those truths on which our hope is founded eventually come back to love: love of each other and for all of creation, which the infinite Trinity beholds timelessly and constantly gazes upon, in creative and sustaining love. We contemplate this love every time we turn to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Our prayer is intimately linked to that reality, that inner truth.
And our hope, far from being just a matter of optimism, still less of random chance, becomes the life-pulse of our faith; in other words, our response to that infinite creative and redemptive love.