almoner n : an official in a British hospital who looks after the social and material needs of the patients [syn: medical social worker]
EtymologyOE. aumener, aulmener, OF. almosnier, aumosnier, F. aumônier, fr. OF. almosne, alms, L. eleemosyna. See Alms.
PronunciationIPA: WEAE /ˈæl.mə.nɚ/
- one who distributes alms, esp. the doles and alms of religious houses, almshouses;
- one who dispenses alms for another, as the almoner of a prince, bishop
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 Christian religious functionaries whose duty was to distribute alms to 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 France had 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 money on 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 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.
almoner in German: Almosenier
almoner in Spanish: Limosnero
almoner in Dutch: aalmoezenier