Vatican almoner seeks the poor


Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the new Vatican Almoner.

Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the new Vatican Almoner.

Pope Francis never stops amazing me, and perhaps everybody else who had been following his pronouncements and actions since he was elected to the papal throne.

Unlike his predecessors who were pampered with grandeur and pomposity, Francis is known for having a simpler and less formal approach to the papacy, which he showed immediately upon his election by refusing to wear the traditional papal mozzetta cape and down to his preferred residence, his choice of simpler vestments void of ornamentation and choosing also silver instead of gold for both his papal ring and pectoral cross. And, yes, he is no ‘Prada Pope’ either, referring to his immediate predecessor’s custom-made red shoes.

 “Oh, how I would like a poor Church, and for the poor.” These words spoken by Pope Francis several days after his election exemplified his mission to reach out to those in most need.

Reforms have been made in and felt by the Catholic Church and almost all shows the pope’s concern for the poor and his emphasis on humility, poverty, social justice, non-judgmental, peace and mercy always reverberates.

He is what I consider a ‘revolutionary pope’ and to that extent, his exhortations and actions is what makes him Christ-like and spiritually inspiring instead of being awed by ones saintly looks as others before him strongly exudes.

The latest of his radicalism that is being talked about these days is the way Pope Francis made the duty of the Vatican almoner essential and functional.

It used to be that the Vatican almoner was typically an aging Vatican diplomat who was serving his final years carrying out acts of charity and raising the money to fund them before being allowed to retire at age 75.

Because of the pope’s ardent desire to help the poor, what he did was replace the aging almoner with a much younger and able priest to be a hands-on extension of his own personal charity.

The new almoner, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, is a 50-year-old Pole who had been a close assistant to Pope John Paul II in his final years and together with a few off-duty Swiss guards go with him in his modest white Fiat to make the rounds at Rome’s train stations, where charities offer makeshift soup kitchens that feed 400-500 people a night. Often they bring the leftovers from the Vatican mess halls to share.

Apparently, the pope, then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, used to go out at night, incognito, to break bread with the homeless on the streets of Buenos Aires, the capital, to let them know that someone cared for them.

“My job is to be an extension of the pope’s arm toward the poor, the needy, those who suffer,” Krajewski said. “He cannot go out of the Vatican, so he has chosen a person who goes out to hug the people who suffer” in the pope’s place.

Larger and longer-term charity works are handled by the Vatican’s international charity federation. The almoner, Krajewski explained, is more a “first aid” compassion station: quick, small doses of help that don’t require bureaucratic hurdles, but are nevertheless heartfelt and something of a sacrifice.

Krajewski’s office funds its work by producing papal parchments, hand-made certificates with a photo of the pope that the faithful can buy for a particular occasion — say a wedding, baptism or priestly ordination — with the name of the recipient and an apostolic blessing written in calligraphy.

Pope Francis must be very happy with the resultant change, but at the same time his obsession of helping the poor and comforting the afflicted poses a challenge to the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy all over the world for them to emulate somehow.

Or would they?


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