The Office of Papal Charities is the department of the Holy See charged with exercising charity to the poor in the name of the Holy Father.
This tradition goes back to the earliest centuries of the Church. 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. The Almoner 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.
Please note that costs associated with the issue of the Papal Blessing are incurred only by reason of the parchment itself, the preparation costs, postage and a contribution to the Pope’s charitable works.
The proceeds accruing to the Office of Papal Charities from the preparation of papal blessing parchments are applied entirely to the works of charity which this Office carries out on behalf of the needy who appeal to the Successor of Peter.