byFather Robert M. O'Grady
A. The simplest description is “a white circular band of wool two inches wide, with two weighted pendants, front and back, worn around the neck, shoulders and breast, ornamented with six black crosses of silk.”
The origin of the word itself is from the Latin for “covering.” From the same Latin word we get “pall” which refers both to the white covering of a deceased’s coffin used often in the Rite of Christian Burial and also for the stiffened linen covering sometimes used to cover the chalice during the celebration of Mass.
Q. What is used for?
A. The pallium, a Mass vestment, is used by a metropolitan archbishop on more solemn occasions when he is the principal celebrant of a Mass. Among the more noticeable of these would be the celebrations of ordinations, confirmations, dedications of churches or blessings of abbots or abbesses. In short, it is used at liturgical celebrations usually celebrated by a bishop.
The pope wears his pallium all the time and wherever he is. Only one bishop may use a pallium at each occasion. Thus if the pope is visiting in a metropolitan see he alone wears his pallium.
Q. May Archbishop O’Malley wear this all the time and everywhere?
A. Both Canon Law and liturgical regulations describe the appropriate times when the pallium may be used. Because the pallium is a symbol of his metropolitan status, he may use it only within the metropolitan province, but not outside of it.
Thus for example, if Bishop Kenneth Angell of Burlington, Vt., invited the archbishop to celebrate Mass for a special event there, Archbishop O’Malley could use his pallium there. If, however, Bishop Mulvee of Providence, R.I., extended the same invitation, the archbishop could not use his pallium there because Providence is in the Hartford province.
By way of coincidence, for the first time both metropolitans in New England received their pallia on the same day. Archbishop Mansell of Hartford, Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis and Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia were among the 44 new metropolitan archbishops receiving the pallium on June 29.
Q. Did you say Cardinal Rigali received a pallium? Doesn’t he already have one?
A. Good question. Yes, he has one that he may no longer use! A pallium is a unique symbol. It is both personal (for the office holder himself) and restricted (tied to his metropolitan see). So Cardinal Rigali does have his pallium from St. Louis. While it is his, he can’t use it in Philadelphia. He must have a new one for Philadelphia. The law says that if he is moved to another metropolitan see the archbishop must ask for another pallium for that new see.
Cardinal Rigali is not the only American archbishop who has two pallia. Cardinal Francis George of Chicago has two — one for Chicago and one from his previous archdiocese of Portland, Ore.; Cardinal McCarrick of Washington, D.C., has one for our Federal capital city and another from Newark, N.J.; Archbishop William Levada of San Francisco has one for the City by the Bay and also has one from Portland, Ore.
When a metropolitan archbishop dies he may be buried with most recent pallium he has received. All other pallia he has received must also be buried with him.
Q. Who makes these?
A. The Benedictine Sisters of the convent of St. Ceceilia in Trastevere in Rome make the pallia.
Each year on the feast of St. Agnes, Jan. 21, two lambs are blessed in the Church of St. Agnes near the Piazza Navona. Recall that one of St. Agnes’ symbols in art is the lamb, which recalls also the “Lamb of God” — Jesus Christ.
After the lambs have been blessed, they are given to the sisters in Trastevere who care for them, and when the time comes the lambs are shorn of their wool. It is this wool that the sisters then weave into the pallia.
When the pallia are finished they are brought to the Vatican. They are blessed by the pope during the ceremony when they are presented to the new metropolitans. Those to be bestowed at other times are then kept in a special container under the Altar of Crucifixion, over the tomb of St. Peter.
Q. When is the pallium given?
A. The Holy Father can give the pallium to an archbishop whenever he wishes. Early in his papacy, however, Pope John Paul II began the custom of giving the pallium to new metropolitan archbishops on the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul.
So each year on June 29 all those who have been named and installed in their new metropolitan sees since the previous June 29 are invited to Rome to receive this symbol from the hands of the Holy Father. This year, 44 new archbishops received their pallia along with Archbishop O’Malley.
An exception is made if an archbishop cannot for a practical or political reason come to Rome. In this case the papal representative or someone he designates would give the new archbishop his pallium in the metropolitan cathedral. This year eight new metropolitans will receive their pallia outside the ceremony at Rome.
Q. You said it has several symbolic meanings?
A. Yes. Here are a few: a symbol of the metropolitan’s jurisdiction in his province; a symbol of his unity with the Bishop of Rome, a reminder that the archbishop is “yoked” to the Chief Shepherd of the Flock, the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ.
A few words about each.
G The metropolitan archbishop has a limited but real responsibility for the government and pastoral care of the dioceses of his province. The new “Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops” directs the metropolitan to be attentive to his brother bishops and to assist them with his advice and prayers, and even to correct them “fraternally” if the need arises.
G The unity of the metropolitan archbishop with the Holy Father is beautifully symbolized not only on the feast — Sts. Peter and Paul — chosen for the giving of the pallium, but also from the fact that the pallium is taken from the “tomb of the apostle Peter” of whom the pope is the successor.
G As noted above, the use of the lambs’ wool in the making of the pallium reminds the new archbishop that he is given additional care for the flock of Christ who is the Lamb of God.
Q. How did Archbishop O’Malley receive his pallium?
A. During the Mass in St. Peter’s Square and after his homily and that of Patriarch Bartholomew I and the recitation of the Creed, the Holy Father remained seated, thew new metropolitans were presented by name and archdiocese to the pope. Each made an oath in Latin:
I, Seán Patrick O’Malley, archbishop of Boston, will be always faithful and obedient to the blessed apostle Peter, to the holy, apostolic Church of Rome and to you, the Supreme Pontiff, and to your legitimate successors. So, help me God.
Then the deacons brought the pallia to be blessed to the pope. The Holy Father blessed the pallia according to the prescribed formula. He then proclaimed the words of imposition:
To the glory of Almighty God and the praise of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of the apostles Peter and Paul, and of the Holy Roman Church, for the honor of the Churches, which have been placed in your care, and as symbol of your authority as metropolitan archbishop: We confer on you the pallium taken from the tomb of Peter to wear within the limits of your ecclesiastical province.
May this pallium be a symbol of unity and a sign of your communion with the Apostolic See, a bond of love, and an incentive to courage. On the day of the coming and manifestation of our great God and chief shepherd, Jesus Christ, may you and the flock entrusted to you be clothed with immortality and glory. In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
The new archbishops approached him individually. Archbishop O’Malley made a profound bow to the pope and then knelt in front of him. The pope then placed a pallium on the archbishop’s shoulders.
Q. Do I see a clip or pin on the pallium?
A. Good catch. Sometimes what is functional becomes decorative, and occasionally vice versa. The “pallium pins” are an example of functional becoming decorative. Previously pins were used to keep the pallium in place; now these pins are purely decorative. By custom there are three, and they are used at the front and back and on the left shoulder.