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Urbi et Orbi

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Urbi et Orbi

Facade of St. Peter's Basilica with the benediction loggia of the pope usually gives the blessing Urbi et Orbi
Not to be confused with the "Episcopal Blessing" which is also called the "Papal Blessing" or "Apostolic Blessing".

Urbi et Orbi ("to the City [of Rome] and to the World") denotes a papal address and Apostolic Blessing given to the City of Rome and to the entire world on certain occasions.


  • Occasions 1
  • Formula of blessing 2
    • Latin 2.1
    • English translation 2.2
  • Older practice 3
  • Etymology 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


The Urbi et Orbi address and blessing are given each Easter and Christmas from the central loggia of Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome, at noontime and are broadcast worldwide through the European Broadcasting Union and other linkups. The address concludes with greetings in many languages in relation to the feast celebrated.

The Catholic Church grants a plenary indulgence, on the usual conditions, to those who "devoutly receive" the blessing that the Pope imparts Urbi et Orbi. For any indulgence, the conditions are receiving sacramental confession and Eucharistic communion, and praying for the intentions of the Pope. To gain a plenary indulgence, a person must in addition exclude any affection for sin, even venial sin.[1]

Since 1985, this indulgence is granted not only to the people in Saint Peter's Square but also to those who, though unable to be physically present, "piously follow" it by radio or television.[2][3]

This is now extended to all who receive the papal blessing over the Internet ("the new communications media"), since the blessing is preceded by an announcement by the Cardinal Protodeacon: "His Holiness Pope Francis grants a plenary indulgence in the form laid down by the Church to all the faithful present and to those who receive his blessing by radio, television and the new communications media. Let us ask Almighty God to grant the Pope many years as leader of the Church and peace and unity to the Church throughout the world."[4]

Formula of blessing

Note that the final invocation is the same as that of all the solemn blessings at the end of Mass of the Roman Rite.


Sancti Apostoli Petrus et Paulus: de quorum potestate et auctoritate confidimus, ipsi intercedant pro nobis ad Dominum.
: Amen.
Precibus et meritis beatae Mariae semper Virginis, beati Michaelis Archangeli, beati Ioannis Baptistae et sanctorum Apostolorum Petri et Pauli et omnium Sanctorum, misereatur vestri omnipotens Deus; et dimissis omnibus peccatis vestris, perducat vos Iesus Christus ad vitam æternam.
: Amen.
Indulgentiam, absolutionem, et remissionem omnium peccatorum vestrorum, spatium veræ et fructuosae pœnitentiae, cor semper paenitens, et emendationem vitae, gratiam et consolationem Sancti Spiritus; et finalem perseverantiam in bonis operibus tribuat vobis omnipotens et misericors Dominus.
: Amen.
Et benedictio Dei omnipotentis, Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti, descendat super vos et maneat semper.
: Amen.[4]

English translation

May the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, in whose power and authority we trust, intercede for us before the Lord.
: Amen.
Through the prayers and merits of Blessed Jesus Christ bring you to everlasting life.
℟: Amen.
May the almighty and merciful Lord grant you indulgence, absolution and the remission of all your sins, a season of true and fruitful penance, a well-disposed heart, amendment of life, the grace and comfort of the Holy Spirit and final perseverance in good works.
℟: Amen.
And may the blessing of Almighty God, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, come down on you and remain with you forever.
℟: Amen.[4]

Older practice

Prior to the occupation of Rome by the army of the Kingdom of Italy (September 20, 1870), this blessing was given more frequently and at specific basilicas at Rome:

On the occasion of a Holy Year the Pope gave the blessing on other occasions too for the benefit of pilgrims. In the jubilee year of 1650 Pope Innocent XI did so at Epiphany, Pentecost, and All Saints. He and later Popes gave such special-occasion blessings from the balcony of the Quirinal Palace, which was then the papal residence.[5]

After the occupation, Pope Pius IX considered himself a "prisoner in the Vatican" and in protest ceased to give the blessing. The practice was later resumed, though in a more limited manner, following the resolution of the so-called "Roman Question" (i.e., the legal relationship between the Holy See and the Italian government).


The term Urbi et Orbi evolved from the consciousness of the ancient Roman Empire. In fact it should be expressed by the Pope as the bishop of Rome (urbs = city; urbi the corresponding dative form; compare: urban) as well as the head of the Roman Catholic Church. Thus, as it were, includes the whole world (orbis = earth; orbi the corresponding dative form; compare: Orbit).

The formula is found more frequently in the language of the church, as in the inscription at the Lateran Basilica, after which the church is: omnium urbis et orbis Ecclesiarum mater et caput[6] - "the head and mother of all churches of the city and of the earth" = the principal and mother of all churches of the world.

In the 4th century, Pope Damasus I wrote in a letter to the bishops of Illyricum:

Unde iustum est, omnes in Universo Romanorum Orbe Doctores legis, ea, quae legis sunt, sapere, et non fidem doctrinis variis maculare.[7] - (English: "Hence, it is just, that all doctors of the law in the Universe of the World of the Romans, those, who are of the law, are wise, and do not teach the faith with various doctrines.")

The ritual of the papal blessing Urbi et Orbi developed in the 13th Century during Pope Gregory X, who consulted before his election with Niccolò and Maffeo Polo.[8][9]


  1. ^ Normae de Indulgentiis, 20
  2. ^ Enchiridion Indulgentiarum, "Aliae Concessiones", 4
  3. ^ , 19 December 1985New York TimesJohn Tagliabue, "Vatican to allow indulgences by TV",
  4. ^ a b c Pontifical Council for Social Communications, "Christmas Message and Blessing "Urbi et Orbi"
  5. ^ Andrew Meehan, "Urbi et Orbi" in Catholic Encyclopedia (New York 1912)
  6. ^ The British and foreign evangelical review and quarterly record of Christian literature, Vol. XV., page 39, James Oswald Dykes, James Stuart Candlish, Hugh Sinclair Paterson, Joseph Samuel Exell, James Nisbet & Co., London 1866.
  7. ^ Cassiodorus, Historia Eccl., 5, CAPUT XXIX. Litterae Damasi et caeterorum ad Illyricum contra concilium in Nicaea Thraciae factum.
  8. ^ A Natural History of Latin, page 294, Tore Janson, Oxford University Press 2007, ISBN 978-0-19-162265-6
  9. ^ The Travels Of Marco Polo, page 214, Henry Yule, Plain Label Books, ISBN 978-1-60303-615-3

External links

  • Urbi et Orbi article from The Catholic Encyclopedia
  • "Apostolic Blessing".  
  • Audio of Pope John Paul I's blessing following his election as Pope
  • messagesUrbi et OrbiPope John Paul II's
  • messagesUrbi et OrbiPope Benedict XVI's
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