Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Sheared Lambs Did Their Part

New archbishops around the world will receive their pallia from the pope on June 29, the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. Among those going to Rome for the occasion are Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis, Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit, Archbishop-designate Gregory Aymond of New Orleans and Archbishop-designate George Lucas of Omaha.

Much symbolism surrounds the pallia, which are white woolen bands, about two inches wide, that are worn around the neck. Pope Benedict XVI will present a pallium to Latin-rite archbishops recently named to head metropolitan sees.

Pallia are liturgical vestments worn over the chasuble at Mass, decorated with six dark crosses, with a strip hanging in front and in back and a pendant at the end of each strip. From front or back, the pallium resembles a “Y.” The pallium represent the archbishop’s authority over his ecclesiastical province and his unity with the pope, who also wears a pallium. The wool of an archbishop’s pallium recalls Jesus’s words to Peter: Feed my lambs (Jn 21:15). An archbishop is buried with his pallium.

There are differences between the archbishops’ pallia and the pope’s pallium. The archbishops’ pallia are woven from wool from lambs. The pope’s pallium is woven of wool from both lambs and sheep, to reflect Jesus’s telling Peter: “Feed my lambs” and “Feed my sheep.”

The wool for the pallia is no ordinary wool. It comes from very young lambs who are incensed and blessed after a solemn Mass on the Feast of St. Agnes (January 28) at Rome’s Basilica of St. Agnes Outside the Walls. Afterwards the lambs are shown to the pope at the Vatican and then cared for by the Benedictine nuns of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere. The nuns care for them until Holy Thursday when the lambs are sheared.

On June 28, the vigil of the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, the pallia are placed on an altar in St. Peter’s Basilica near the tomb of St. Peter, where they remain throughout the night.

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