Almoner (from the Greek ελεημοσύνη, westernized as eleemosyna, 'alms' via Latin "Almosunartius" and French, known in English since circa 1300) is a chaplain or church officer who originally was in charge of distributing charity.
Historically, almoners were
Christianreligious functionaries whose duty was to distribute almsto the poor. Monasteries were required to spend one tenth of their income in charity to the poor (a " tithe"). Bishops kept their own almoners and almoners were attached to the courts to the Kings of France. Charles VIII of Francehad a Grand Almoner in his employ.
Today one of the most prominent such offices is that of the Anglican "
Lord High Almoner". The High Almoner (currently Rt Rev Nigel McCulloch, Bishop of Manchester) is responsible for organising the Queen's annual distribution of Maundy moneyon Maundy Thursday.
The "Almoner of His Holiness," the
pope's official almoner, continues in office even after the pope dies. He "continues to carry out works of charity in accordance with the criteria employed during the pope's lifetime" (" Universi Dominici Gregis", 22).
The name almoner was also used for a hospital official who interviews prospective patients to qualify them as indigent, and was later applied to the officials who were responsible for patient welfare and after-care. This position is now usually filled by
Medical social workers.
The title "almoner" has fallen out of use in English, but its equivalents in other languages are often used for many pastoral functions covered by
chaplains or pastors.
The Almoner remains an active and important office in Masonic Lodges in England. His duty is to oversee the needs of the Brethren within his Lodge. He is the contact for Charity and looks after the welfare of the members, including visits to the sick, aged and infirm.
Grand Almoner of France
Medical social work
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