His task is clear: “To carry out assistance to the poor in the name of the Holy Father.” It is not a simple job, but Pope Francis was clear with Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the almsgiver, or rather the papal almoner, as he is officially known. And so the monsignor follows the Pope’s orders, fulfilling this primary duty. But he also has another very important task, and that is to collect funds in order to meet the poor’s needs. Every day, his small office, the Office of Papal Charities, receives thousands of requests—requests for papal blessings written on parchment scrolls. He dispenses the blessings, which are free, but certain costs come with the scrolls—fees that go straight to the needy. These are blessings that are double in value: They make those who receive the papal blessings happy, and the fees that they pay benefit those who are in need.
Also Read: The Pope’s Charity Chronicles
A Blessing by Request
Also known as papal blessing, this blessing “by request” is a tradition began by Leo XIII. In 1878, he granted the almoner the power to bestow papal blessings through the almoner’s signature and the Office’s stamp on the parchments. These certificates are highly valued by Catholics all over the world, and they obtain them for certain milestones in their lives, such as a wedding, baptism, and even a birthday.
The Pope’s Official Almsgiver
There are 12 people manning the office of the Pope’s Almoner, and visitors who drop by are always amazed and inspired by the warmth and smiles they receive. Cardinal Krajewski— who prefers to be called Don Corrado—has no qualms about answering the phone or even opening the door. In fact, the moment we walk in, the simple man asks, “How can I help you?” He has just returned from the Vatican pharmacy, where he purchased medicines for a woman who was in need, and is ready to “run away” for another emergency. In fact, his work never stops. “In the morning, when I get up, I always wonder what Pope Francis would like from me,” says Don Corrado. “The answer is inevitable: an emergency to face, a visit to do immediately.” After all, as Don Corrado likes to say, almsgiving is “the first aid of Pope Francis,” and an emergency room never closes its doors!
Text by Benedetta Capelli and Stephanie Jesena-Novero.
Photos from Catholic Press.