The following commentary is from the EWTN series, The Papacy: A Living History, The Papal Artifacts Collection of Father Richard Kunst. Now available as a DVD, it may be purchased from EWTN. The artifact presented here is from Episode 3, Popes of the 20th Century.
Here is Father’s Commentary:
This is a very unique piece because it’s a letter someone had written to him. Remember that he was Pope at the time. Someone wrote to him asking for a dispensation from the Eucharistic fast. Now, no one would write a letter today to the Pope asking for such a dispensation. I mean, you just don’t do that! You would go to your pastor. But he was very good, and he wrote back, giving the dispensation. And then he signed off on it. And so it’s a very unique item.
We can imagine the kinds of requests Popes get on a regular basis, even today. And this was a strange request to ask of any Pope, even 100 years ago.
It’s also unique in that it’s on very simple paper. It’s on the actual sheet of paper containing the request. The Pope just took that letter and answered right on it, and then he sent it back to the person. So it contains both the request and the answer.
You see his name, ‘Benedictus PP XV’. ‘PP’, of course, meaning, ‘Papa’.
And he responded here very much like a papa. In several lines in his own hand, he was answering this very simple request. He really put time into helping this one individual.
It is dated July 1, 1918. So it’s quite an old piece of paper and quite an old item.