Archbishop O’Malley will receive pallium on June 29th

When Pope John Paul II places the pallium on the shoulders of Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley on Tuesday evening, June 29th in the square in front of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, it will be another one of those historic days for the archdiocese.

The last time an archbishop of Boston received a pallium from a pope was also the first time that an archbishop of Boston received one personally from the pope.

Just 20 years ago on June 29, 1984, Pope John Paul II inaugurated the custom of giving the pallium personally to new metropolitan archbishops from around the world. Three Americans were among those first 11 to be so honored: Archbishop Daniel Kucera, OSB, Dubuque, Iowa (now retired); Boston’s Bernard Cardinal Law and the late John Cardinal O’Connor of New York.

The pallium that our archbishop will receive is a small liturgical vestment filled with symbolism and meaning; one that has a long history.

More than 25 years ago, then-Pilot staffer, Gerard P. Rooney, wrote an article and provided a series of drawings about the history and development of the pallium. This article incorporates those drawings and some of his material, along with updated information.

Many of our present liturgical vestments have interesting histories. Most began as everyday clothing used by the cultures in which the liturgy grew in both the East and the West. As time progressed and as the Church grew, many of the vestments we associate with divine worship started to take on the forms we know today.

The pallium is a good example of this growth, which has involved changes in style, meaning and form.

The garment that the ancient Romans called the pallium resembled a kind of shawl. The ancient Greeks called this garment the “himation.” Usually an oblong piece of linen or wool maintaining its natural color, the pallium was draped over the left arm and shoulder, then drawn around the back of the wearer, arranged over the breast and then hung over the left shoulder in the back (Figure 1).

From what we know of ancient clothing, this dress was characteristic of Greeks and of those parts of the world affected by Greek civilization, which would have included Rome.

The garment was seen as the special reserve of intellectuals, especially philosophers. Thus orators, teachers and other learned men wore the pallium in this form mentioned through the third century.

During the third century, the pallium began to be associated with ecclesiastical dignity because bishops were using it in performing many of their religious duties — preaching and teaching

In the fourth century, the previously common garment became almost exclusively associated with those in government, secular or religious. At this point, its form was a bit simplified as can be seen in Figure 2.

By this time, the pallium had shrunk in size so that it could also be worn over the chasuble. We can see now that the pallium is becoming more of an ornament than of a garment. In Figure 3, the form has changed and the manner of wearing it is simpler. It seems that at this point that three pins were needed to secure the pallium to the chasuble — one to attach the back fold to the chasuble, another to attach the front fold and a third to attach the overlapping parts on the left shoulder. Here the pins are functional: They were needed to keep the pallium in place on the outer garment. Notice the pins appear in Figure 4.