58 – Requesting a blessing: A picture is worth a thousand words; and a gesture, at times, more than an official document…

As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. That’s why the expressive though silent message transmitted through certain gestures often deserves our attention just as much as certain declarations or documents do. This is all the more true in the case of the one who has the mission of representing Jesus Christ ex officio, as his Vicar on earth.

To better comprehend what the pictures accompanying this text ‘say,’ it may help to remember something of the doctrine of the Church regarding blessings.

According to the Catechism it is a sacramental: ‘Every blessing praises God and prays for his gifts’ (no. 1671). Some more solemn blessings are reserved for bishops; others correspond to priests and others to deacons, as ‘stewards of the mysteries of God’ (1Cor 4:1). The faithful also, in virtue of the common priesthood received through Baptism, may impart certain blessings just as parents, for example, have traditionally blessed their children.

Some ‘blessings’, however, are a cause of concern… Is a heretic’s blessing valid? Is it licit to request such a blessing? What is the meaning of such a gesture? The Magisterium, Fathers and Doctors of the Church aid us in these confusing times, responding with their characteristic precision.



As Cardinal, being blessed by Evangelicals at Luna Park on June 19, 2006. Buenos Aires, Argentina.

With Tawadros II, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt. 2013

With Justin Welby, Primate of the Anglican Church. 2014


With the Bartholomew I, Patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Constantinople. Requesting a blessing for himself and for “the whole Church of Rome”. November 29, 2014.

With a group of 100 evangelical pastors, headed by the Italian pastor Giovanni Traettino. May 7, 2015

Teachings of the Magisterium

Enter the various parts of our study


I – Is a heretic’s blessing valid?
II – Is it licit to request such blessings?

I – Is a heretic’s ‘blessing’ valid?

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Blessings are granted through the intercession of the Church

Pius XII

Their efficacy is due to the action of the Church inasmuch as She is holy and in closest union with her Head

Code of Canon Law

An excommunicated person is forbidden to celebrate sacramentals

Leo I, the Great

The strength of the Holy Spirit is received only from Catholic ministers, not from heretics

Saint Augustine of Hippo

As an amputated member, a heretic does not possess the life of the Spirit

Saint Cyprian of Carthage

Jesus Christ is not pleased with the prayer of schismatics: how can two or three be gathered in the name of Christ when separated Him?


Ordinations enacted according to the Anglican rite are invalid and entirely void

II – Is it licit to request such a blessing?

Pius XI

Giving countenance to a false Christianity, quite alien to the one Church of Christ
The Apostle of love forbade contact with those who hold a mutilated version of Christ’s teaching: His disciples must be united principally by the bond of one faith

Saint Augustine of Hippo

In these few things wherein they are not with the Church, there is no profit to them of the many things wherein they are with Her

Saint Ignatius of Antioch

Flee as you would from wild beasts from those who carry about the name of Jesus, but practice things unworthy of God

Saint Cyprian of Carthage

Shun those who compose prayers with unauthorized words and profane the Lord’s offering by false sacrifices – they bear arms against the Church

Saint Thomas Aquinas

The Church forbids the faithful to communicate with heretics

Sacred Scripture

He who receives a heretic shares in his evil works

Lateran Synod

Condemnation of those who do not reject heretics

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

In no way to be tolerated: that the clergy or faithful pray for Christian unity under the leadership of heretics

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