25 June 2008

What is Peter's Pence?

This weekend, Holy Mother Church will take up a universal collection under the name of "Peter's Pence."

This collection for the charitable giving of the Holy Father has a long history in the life of the Church and greatly contributes to the needs of the world.

The Anglo-Saxon people, under the direction of King Alfred the Great (d. 899), as you might have guessed, began this annual collection in the ninth century, calling it Denarius Sancti Petri, the alms of Saint Peter. Other European peoples soon took up this collection, as well.

The Holy See defines Peter's Pence as "the name given to the financial support offered by the faithful to the Holy Father as a sign of their sharing in the concern of the Successor of Peter for the many different needs of the Universal Church and for the relief of those most in need."

We see from the earliest days of the Church the great care that Christians are to have for one another and, indeed, for their fellow man. At Antioch, “the disciples determined that, according to ability, each should send relief to the brothers who lived in Judea” who were soon to suffer famine (Acts 11:29).

Saint Paul told the Church at Rome,
For Macedonia and Achaia have decided to make some contribution for the poor among the holy ones in Jerusalem; they decided to do it, and in fact they are indebted to them, for if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to serve them in material blessings (Romans 15:26-27).
The Apostle also told the Church at Corinth,

Now in regard to the collection for the holy ones, you also should do as I ordered the Churches of Galatia. On the first day of the week each of you should set aside and save whatever he can afford, so that collections will not be going on when I come. And when I arrive, I shall send those whom you have approved with letters of recommendation to take your gracious gift to Jerusalem (I Corinthians 16:1-4).
We cannot sit idly by while so many people are suffering from lack of food, shelter, medical care, etc., etc., etc. We must do our part to help them and our contribution to Peter's Pence is a way to meet the duty given us in baptism.

"How will my gift be used?" you ask. The Holy See responds thusly:

The faithful’s offerings to the Holy Father are destined to Church needs, to humanitarian initiatives and social promotion projects, as well as to the support of the Holy See. The Pope, being Pastor of the whole Church, is attentive to the material needs of poor dioceses, religious institutes and of faithful in grave difficulties (the poor, children, the elderly, those marginalized and the victims of war or natural disasters; concrete aid to Bishops or dioceses in need, Catholic education, assistance to refugees and immigrants, etc.).
All of these are worthy and important needs and the offerings made to Peter’s Pence give the Successor of Saint Peter the funds needed to help support such valuable work.

The Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI described Peter's Pence as

the most characteristic expression of the participation of all the faithful in the Bishop of Rome’s charitable initiatives in favour of the universal Church. The gesture has not only a practical value, but also a strong symbolic one, as a sign of communion with the Pope and attention to the needs of one’s brothers; and therefore your service possesses a refined ecclesial character.[1]
In his Encyclical Deus caritas est, Pope Benedict XVI reminded us that "the Church can never be exempted from practising charity as an organized activity of believers and, on the other hand, there will never be a situation where the charity of each individual Christian is unnecessary, because in addition to justice man needs, and will always need, love” (29).

Won't you then assist the Holy Father in his charitable work throughout the world? You can either use the designated envelope provided by your parish or you can do what I will do and send your gift to:

His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI
00120 Vatican City State
You may also donate online with your credit card.Please be generous for every gift of any size is valuable; simply remember the widow's mite (cf. Mark 12:41-44 and Luke 21:1-4).

[1] Pope Benedict XVI, Address to the Members of the Circle of St. Peter, 25 February 2006.

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