Concrete participation in the universal mission of the Holy Father has taken different forms throughout history, including economic forms, through collections and donations from individual faithful or entire local churches. The general criterion that inspires the practice of Peter’s Pence, refers back to the primitive Church: “The primary basis for the support of the Apostolic See is constituted by the spontaneous offerings given by Catholics from all over the world, and eventually also by other people of good will. This corresponds to the tradition, which has its origins in the Gospel (Lk 10:7) and in the teachings of the Apostles (1 Cor 9:11)” (Letter of John Paul II to the Cardinal Secretary of State, November 20, 1982).
The Goal of Peter’s Pence
As the expression itself signifies Peter’s Pence, represents an offering, no matter how small, that has great meaning. Indeed, its value is not only practical, but is also highly symbolic. It represents a sign of communion with the Pope. For this reason, Peter’s Pence is also the manifestation of a sense of belonging to the Church and of love for her visible head.
Contributions to Peter’s Pence for the exercise of the Pope’s universal mission, are directed in two ways: in financing the many activities of service carried out by the Curia (e.g. formation of the clergy, communication, promotion of integral human development, education, justice, etc.) and in contributing to numerous works of material assistance for the most in need.
Peter’s Pence has a dual aim: 1) support for the universal mission of the Successor of Saint Peter, who, for this purpose, makes use of a group of offices called the Roman Curia (cf. canons 360-361 of the Code of Canon Law) and more than one hundred Pontifical Representatives throughout the world (cf. canons 362ff. of the Code of Canon Law); 2) support for the charitable works of the Pope on behalf of those most in need.
The Use of the Proceeds
The offerings of the faithful are intended to support the activities of the Holy Father for the whole Universal Church. These activities are carried out by the Holy See. The Pope, as Pastor of the universal Church, is concerned both with the needs of evangelization (spiritual, educational, justice, communication, political charity, diplomatic activity, etc.) and with the material needs of poor dioceses, religious institutes and faithful in serious difficulties (the poor, children, the elderly, the marginalized, victims of wars and natural disasters; special aid to Bishops or Dioceses in need, Catholic education, aid to refugees and migrants, etc.).
Every service provided by the Holy See and destined for the universal Church is possible, thanks to Peter’s Pence. In fact, it guarantees the activity of the Dicasteries that assist the Pope every day in the exercise of his ministry. In order to ensure the maximum efficiency of the Curia, and the proper destination of the aid received, a process of reorganization of the Dicasteries has been launched in recent years aimed at minimizing the costs of internal functions in favor of those destined for assistance and missionary purposes.
The contribution according to Can. 1271 CIC
Canon 1271 of the Code of Canon Law, concerns the Bishops, who, by reason of the bond of unity with the Successor of Peter, according to the possibilities of their own Diocese, are also called to help procure for the Apostolic See the means it needs for its service to the universal Church. Unlike Peter’s Pence, which is a free offering of the People of God, the contribution provided by this canon does not have a charitable aim, but is exclusively destined for the institutional activities of the Holy See.