Vatican officials should “participate in the pain that so many families feel these days” during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, according to one of Pope Francis’s chief aides.
On Saturday, Polish Cardinal Konrad Krajewski called on his fellow high-ranking Vatican officials to donate a month’s salary to the Papal Fund, used to support charities in and around Rome.
The appeal came in a letter the Papal Almoner sent members of the Cappella Pontificia – “Papal Chapel” – which consists of the cardinals and other high-ranking prelates that assist the pope, and is usually most visible during big papal Masses, including Christmas and Easter.
“Alms need to hurt,” Krajewski told Crux.
“We’re not asking to give away part of the salary; it’s not ‘whatever. I can offer after paying the bills. It is the entire income for the month we are asking bishops and cardinals in the Vatican to donate to the Papal Fund – we need to be aware that alms hurt, and to give a lot, not just something.”
Krajewski said Pope Francis will decide where the money goes, and added it will “go through our charity channels.”
The Papal Almoner is a traditional position at the Vatican, concerned with giving alms within the pope’s diocese. Much of its income comes from processing the numerous requests that come from around the world for papal blessings. The almoner’s role has risen to new prominence under Francis, who has backed Krajewski’s efforts to make the charitable efforts of the Vatican more hands-on and visible: The cardinal has established a hostel, showers, medical services, and other facilities to serve the homeless around St. Peter’s Square.
Krajewski told Crux the idea for asking the nearly 250 members of the papal chapel to donate their salary when he meditated on the idea that an act of mercy could substitute for the Real Presence this year, when so many people are missing Mass due to the lockdown.
“Also, Vatican officials should somehow participate in the pain that so many families feel these days losing loved ones,” he explained.
“Some doctors haven’t seen their families for months now. They love their families so much they don’t even come home, so they don’t put their family at risk of contracting the coronavirus. Most churchmen working for the Vatican are using home offices and don’t suffer at all. Giving alms is the least they can do to connect to those doctors and families on the frontlines.”
The monthly salary of a top Vatican official is over $3000, so if they participate in the venture, it would raise around $750,000.
According to Krajewski, some cardinals and bishops already started to ask the Vatican bank to transfer this month’s salary to the pontifical account instead of their own.
The cardinal said the Church “is now learning the Gospel from laity,” pointing to the medical personnel, volunteers and countless charitable initiatives started by lay people during the crisis caused by the pandemic.
Krajewski is not one of the Vatican officials stuck in a home office – in fact, when he was appointed to his role by Francis in 2013, the pontiff told him he “should sell his desk.”
During the pandemic, he has been delivering aid to the homeless, refugees, and convents that have been under quarantine. The cardinal has been tested for the coronavirus – a necessary precaution, to protect those he visits – and shows no sign of the disease.
One of the small bright spots of the crisis has been the fact that restaurants and food companies have had a lot of excess supplies to donate.
Krajewski shared his private cell phone numbers in a public statement two weeks ago asking food establishments to contact him if they had food to give away.
“We have never had so much food of such great quality for our needy,” the cardinal told Crux.
Navi da Crociera, an Italian cruise company, recently called Krajewski suggesting they donate their food supplies to the almoner.
“It really is a smile from heaven,” the Cardinal told Crux. “What was reserved for the richest is now given to the poorest.”