Urbi et Orbi

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The 2008 Urbi et Orbi by Pope Benedict XVI on the Feast of the Nativity of Jesus Christ, Christmas Day, Saint Peter's Square, Vatican City
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 by the Roman pontiff on certain solemn occasions.


The facade of Saint Peter's Basilica with loggia balcony, where the Pope usually gives the blessing Urbi et Orbi
For the EP by Lipona, see Urbi et Orbi (EP).

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 Roman Catholic Church, by the willful grace and intent of the Pope grants a plenary indulgence, on the usual conditions, to those who "devoutly receive" the blessing that the Pope imparts Urbi et Orbi.

For any ordinary plenary indulgence, the "usual conditions" are:

  • Reception of sacramental confession through a Catholic priest within 20 days (before or after) performing the specific work
  • Reception of Eucharistic communion within 20 days (before or after) performing the specific work
  • Prayers for the intentions of the Pope designated for that particular month or occasion, usually at the same time the work is performed, though recitation some days before or after also suffices

Gaining a plenary indulgence requires that a baptized Roman Catholic must also exclude any attachment to 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 medium"), 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]

Formulæ of Apostolic blessing[edit]


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[edit]

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 Mary ever Virgin, Saint Michael the Archangel, Saint John the Baptist, the holy apostles Peter and Paul, and all the saints, may Almighty God have mercy on you and forgive all your sins, and may 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]

Former practice[edit]

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. ^ John Tagliabue, "Vatican to allow indulgences by TV", New York Times, 19 December 1985
  4. ^ a b c "Urbi et Orbi" in Easter Sunday Booklet, Office of Liturgical Celebration of Supreme Pontiff, 27 March, 2016
  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[edit]