(Vatican Radio) Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the head of the Holy Father’s Alms-giving office ("Elemosineria"), has confirmed that as of 1 January 2015, papal blessings will no longer be available from stores and businesses outside the Vatican.
In a note, the apostolic Almoner recalls that the Alms-giving office is tasked with carrying out “works of charity for the poor in the name of the Supreme Pontiff” and that the resources needed to do so derive from donations raised from the blessings.
In the past, the office had collaborated with stores and institutions outside the Vatican to permit a greater number of faithful to obtain the blessings. In recent years, however, the faithful have been able to order blessings directly from the charitable office after obtaining information from its website www.elemosineria.va . For the English information page, click here:
The scrolls can be ordered directly in the Vatican, or by sending a special order form via mail or by fax. The scrolls are shipped almost anywhere in the world.
Msgr. Krajewski notes that as of last September, Pope Francis also extended to apostolic nuncios the right to grant papal blessings on parchment paper.
He confirms that the decision will not affect the jobs of calligraphers who draw up the blessings. The Alms-giving office has a staff of 12 and relies on a group of 17 outside specialists for assistance.
This tradition of papal alms-giving goes back to the earliest centuries of the Church. The website of the Apostolic Alms-giving office gives some historic reference points: Originally one of the immediate responsibilities of the Deacons, responsibility for the Pope’s charities was later exercised by one or more members of the papal household with no particular hierarchical dignity, which was granted later. A Bull of Innocent III (1198-1216) mentions the post of Almoner as already in existence. The first Pope to organize the Office of Papal Charities was Blessed Gregory X (1271-1276), who set down the duties of the Almoner. In a Bull of 1409, Alexander V laid down guidelines and regulations for the Office, which has always functioned as an expression of the constant concern of the Roman Pontiffs. TheAlmoner of His Holiness has the rank of Archbishop; he is a member of the Papal Family and as such takes part in the Holy Father’s liturgical celebrations and official audiences.
Pope Leo XIII, as a means of helping to fund the charitable works carried out by the Office, delegated the Almoner to grant the Apostolic Blessing by parchment certificate: these parchments, in order to be authentic, must bear the Almoner’s signature and the seal of his Office.