There has been much buzz about the pallium this year. Pope Benedict has shifted the the papal pallium away from the very ancient, drapy stole-like "archeological" form back (and forward) to one of the historical forms which can be seen as a "bridge" along the organic development into its modern form.
Here is the form Benedict started to use at the beginning of his pontificate.
Back in April 2005 I have a clear memory of thinking that this odd shift of the pallium was engineered by the former MC Archbp. Piero Marini and planned long before the death of John Paul II. Marini also engineered all sorts of changes in the rites for the funeral and burial of the late Pope. I was struck by the fact that the stole-like "archeological" pallium, which is still like the stole of deacons in the Eastern Churches, was a little too short, almost as if the maker had been certain that someone else was going to be elected… but I digress.
Anyway, I am pleased with the shift this this pallium, which symbolically shows continuity between the "archeological" form and the "modern form" still imposed on Archbishops.
The pallium is a sign of the jurisdiction Metropolitan Archbishops have in their provinces as well as a sign of their closer bond with the Successor of Peter. This is one of the reasons why before the pallia are conferred, they rest in a niche at Peter’s tomb.
Before they receive the pallium the Archbishops take an oath:
Archiepiscopus [PLACE and NAME]
beato Petro apostolo,
Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae,
ac tibi, Summo Pontifici,
tuisque legitimis Successoribus
semper fidelis ero et oboediens.
Ita me Deus omnipotens adiuvet.
Archbishop of the _ diocese (these are adjectives)
will always be faithful and obedient to
St. Peter the apostle,
the Holy Roman Church,
and to you, the Supreme Pontiff
and to your legitimate Successors.
So help me God Almighty.
In recent decades this oath is made also in the presence of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople or his delegate.
The Holy Father blessed the pallia today with these words (my close but not too literal translation):
O God, eternal Pastor of souls, who committed to blessed Peter the Apostle those who are called "the flock" by Jesus Christ Your Son, that they should be governed by him after the model of the Good Shepherd (boni Pastoris typo) , through our ministry pour forth the grace of Your blessing upon these Pallia, which as symbols You desired to be concrete signs (documenta) of pastoral care.
Receive the our humble prayers and grant through the intercession and merits of the Apostles, that whoever will bear them, You generously making it so, may understand himself to be the Shepherd of Your flock, and will show forth in his work that which is signified by the name.
Let him take up the evangelical yoke lain upon his neck, and let it be for him so light and sweet, that in running by example swiftly along the way of your commands, he may merit to be admitted into the everlasting pasture.
When the Pope places the pallium on the neck of the archbishop kneeling before him, he says:
For the glory of Almighty God and the praise of the blessed Virgin Mary and of saints Peter and Paul, for the decorum of the Sees committed to you, unto a sign of the authority of a metropolitan, we bestow upon you the Pallium taken from the Confession of saint Peter, so that you may use it within the confines of your ecclesiastical provinces.
May this Pallium be for your a symbol of unity and a token (tessera) of communion with the Apostolic See; may it be a bond of charity (vinculum caritatis) and a spur of fortitude, so that in the day of the Coming and the revelation of the great God and prince of shepherds Jesus Christ, you may together with the the flocks entrusted to you obtain (potiamini) the stole of immortality and glory.
There are some nice things here. First, the image of a tessera is lovely. A tessera is literally a small block or cube. It is used to describe the little cubes that make up a mosaic. It is still the Italian word for an officially issued pass or a ticket or i.d. card. In this case it makes me think of how each of these archbishops, so different in themselves and in very different places through the world, are contributing in their individual way to the "big picture".