Cardinal-designate Konrad Krajewski has revived an ancient Vatican post

Among the 14 people who will be receiving a red hat on the solemnity of Ss Peter and Paul, there is one who stands out as particularly significant in virtue of the office he holds and in light of the way he has discharged his duties in the five years he has held the office: Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the almoner of His Holiness (the apostolic almoner or papal almoner).

As the name suggests, the papal almoner is responsible for the distribution of charity to the poor and needy. Much of the almoner’s day-to-day work involves quiet disbursements of money to households in acute difficulty: help with things like rent, medicine, groceries and the like to families facing emergencies, widows, the elderly and the poor who have fallen through the cracks.

The papal almoner, in short, is the keeper of the charitable purse of the Bishop of Rome.

In Rome, as in most of the earlyChurch, deacons originally conducted and coordinated the charitable activities of the diocese. deacon – diakonos in Greek – means “servant”, and the service to which the men ordained to the diaconate dedicated themselves were the works of mercy, especially the corporal works of mercy: feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, visiting the imprisoned (and ransoming the captive), burying the dead.

The almoner of His Holiness stands in the way of great heroes of the faith, like St Lawrence, deacon and martyr, chief of the seven deacons who were the early clergy of Rome – the original cardinals before there were such things.

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