It is a tradition that started in the late 8th century.
The Peter’s Pence Appeal is the Holy Father’s annual appeal to raise funds for the most needy parts of the Catholic Church around the world.
This collection is traditionally held on either 29 June, the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, or on the Sunday closest to the solemnity.
In his 2013 Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis wrote: “Small yet strong in the love of God, like Saint Francis of Assisi, all of us, as Christians, are called to watch over and protect the fragile world in which we live, and all its peoples.” (216)
The Peter’s Pence Office explains that Peter’s Pence is:
“A gesture of solidarity. Through it, every member of the faithful can participate in the Pope’s activity. It is an activity that supports the most needy and ecclesial communities in difficulty who approach the Apostolic See for help.
“It is an ancient practice which began with the first community of the apostles. It continues to be repeated because charity distinguishes the disciples of Jesus: ‘From this, they will all know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another’ (Jn 13:35).
“With this gift, we can broaden our gaze and our hearts to embrace the Church scattered throughout the world. The Church then becomes a companion for families and peoples on their journey towards human, spiritual and material development, for the benefit of all societies.
“It is an offering that each member of the faithful decides to give to the Pope so that he can provide for the needs of the entire Church, especially in those places where the Church experiences greater difficulties.”
According to the Roman Curia, “the practice of providing material support to those charged with preaching the Gospel, thus enabling them to devote themselves completely to their apostolic mission and to care for those in greatest need, is as old as Christianity itself (cf. Acts 4:34, 11:29).
“By the end of the eighth century, the Anglo-Saxons felt so closely linked to the Bishop of Rome that they decided to send a regular annual contribution to the Holy Father. Thus the Denarius Sanctri Petri (or Alms of Saint Peter) originated and spread throughout Europe.
“Like other practices of its kind, this custom underwent many changes in the course of the centuries, until in 1871, Pope Pius IX gave it his approval in the Encyclical Letter Saepe Venerabilis (5 August 1871).”
During a speech to the St Peter’s Circle on 28 February 2003, Saint Pope John Paul II said:
“You are aware of the growing needs of the apostolate, the requirements of the ecclesial communities, especially in mission countries, and the requests for aid that come from peoples, individuals and families in precarious conditions. Many expect the Apostolic See to give them the support they often fail to find elsewhere.
In this perspective the Peter’s Pence Collection is a true and proper participation in the work of evangelization, especially if one considers the meaning and importance of concretely sharing in the concerns of the universal Church.”
Directly referring to the Peter’s Pence, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in 2006 said “‘Peter’s Pence’ is the most typical expression of the participation of all the faithful in the Bishop of Rome’s projects of good for the universal Church. The collection is a gesture that not only has practical value but is also highly symbolic as a sign of communion with the Pope and attention to the needs of the brethren, and for this reason your service has a particularly ecclesial value.” (Address to the Members of the Circle of St Peter, 25 February 2006).
Pope Francis said during an Audience to the Members of the Circle of St Peter in May 2018, “The Circle of St. Peter for many years is a beautiful reality of assistance and help to the poor: a shoot of the rich and fruitful “vine” of charity and an expression of the ecclesial “vineyard” of Rome.
“Strive to be the face of a Church that pushes itself to the frontiers, never standing still but walking to meet the brothers and sisters who are hungering and thirsting to be welcomed, yearning for sharing, closeness and solidarity.
“I urge you to continue on this path! In your activity, do not be ashamed of the wounded flesh of the brother”, but to discover the “face of Christ” in every suffering and needy person but in every suffering and needy person know how to see the face of Christ.
“Be courageous missionaries of Christian charity and do not tire of bearing witness to the mercy and goodness of God, becoming instruments of consolation for many fragile and desperate people,” Pope Francis said.
Please give generously to the Peter’s Pence Appeal to support the activities of the Holy See.
To donate to the Peter’s Pence Appeal, visit http://www.peterspence.va/en/dona.html
Sources: Peter’s Pence Office, The Vatican – Roman Curia, St John Paul II’s speech to the St Peter’s Circle on 28 February 2003, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s Address to the Members of the Circle of St Peter on 25 February 2006, and Evangelii Gaudium