WDTPRS: The Pallium, its blessing and imposition

Today during Holy Mass in the Basilica of St. Peter, near to Peter’s tomb, the Holy Father gave the pallium to new metropolitan archbishops.

The pallium is a sign of the jurisdiction metropolitans have in their provinces and also a sign of their closer bond with the person of the Successor of Peter.  This is one of the reasons why before the pallia are granted, they rest in a niche at Peter’s tomb.

Before they receive the pallium the Archbishops are to take an oath:

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.

palliumIt is interesting that in recent decades this oath is witnessed by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople or by 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, note that this is not about the Archbishop! 

It is about the 1) glory of Sts. Peter and Paul, 2) the decorum of the archdiocese, 3) unity with the Apostolic See, and 4) the care of souls.

Also, 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". 

Also in mosaics in the apses of ancient Roman churches you often see very courtly sheep processing solemnly to the center of the mosaics where they are being gathered together under Christ, flanked by his apostles. 

The are coming to drink of flowing, living water. 

These are symbols of the life to come.  I believe that this is what the prayer is driving at.  It is meant to invoke this image. 

The play on the word potiamini is a subtle triumph here. Potiamini is from potior, one of those word that takes the ablative, and means "attain, obtain" or "drink".  However, it also calls instantly to mind the word potio "a drinking".

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Just Too Cool, The Drill, WDTPRS and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. We are MOST blessed to have Archbishop Jerome Listecki in Milwaukee!

  2. AnAmericanMother says:

    Isn’t there a ceremony in which the lambs that provide the wool for the pallia are blessed?

    And are they woven by hand? It certainly looks like it – and a beautiful and elaborate reverse twill pattern.

  3. irishgirl says:

    AnAmericanMother-yes, on St. Agnes’ Day [January 21]. A pair of lambs are placed in a basket with red ribbons and flowers decorating it, and then they’re brought to the Holy Father to be blessed. (the name ‘Agnes’ comes from ‘agnus’, meaning ‘lamb’ in Latin. She is always depicted with a lamb)

    There have some adorable videos of the blessing of the lambs….you can hear them bleating very softly.

    The wool is sheared by Trappist monks, and a community of Benedictine nuns [I’m not sure if they’re Benedictine or Trappistine] weave the pallium.

  4. Please pray for Archbishop Jerome Listecki, our former bishop in La Crosse, who is now the Metropolitan and Archbishop of Milwaukee. He has a daunting task before him…he has been a staunch defender of human life, of the rights of the Church in regards to the whole issue of court cases regarding sexual abuse, and a very good bishop when he was with us for five years after Archbishop Burke left for St. Louis.
    I’m looking forward to viewing the rerun of the Mass later today.
    And today is the seventh anniversary of my Mass of Thanksgiving after being ordained a priest by Archbishop Burke in La Crosse.

  5. Jack Hughes says:

    Don’t the lambs in question end up as the Easter meal of the Nuns in question?

  6. asophist says:

    irishgirl – The name ‘Agnes’ does not come from ‘agnus’. These name ‘Agnes’ is often associated with the word ‘agnus’ only because of the somewhat similar sound of the two words.
    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agnes_of_Rome, which explains the Greek origin of the name.
    The palliae are indeed of very high quality, as should be a bishop’s leadership.

  7. Mark Pavlak says:

    Fr. Z, or anyone else who knows the answer –

    When a bishop becomes a metropolitan (an archbishop), is he forever known as “archbishop?” If he receives the pallium, but then gets transferred to another diocese where he’s not a metropolitan, is he still referred to as “archbishop?” And then what happens to his pallium?

    I would assume that this doesn’t happen very often (if at all), but I just thought of it.

    Can anyone help with an answer?

  8. William says:

    @Mark Pavlak: Should an metropolitan archbishop be “reassigned,” he gets another pallium for that jurisdiction. A prelate can have more than one pallium in his lifetime, but only one at a time. Upon his death, the extra pallium or pallia(?)is/are buried with him, tucked under the nape of the neck I believe. CMIW!

  9. patrick_f says:

    I believe also that Archbishops who are reassigned without a jurisdiction, example given, Archbishop Burke – Hold the title “Archbishop Emiritus”

    Now how that plays in when he goes to another diocese is unlear to me, but I would assume its the same procedure.

  10. ErnieNYC says:

    “Now how that plays in when he goes to another diocese is unlear to me, but I would assume its the same procedure.”

    My understanding is that if appointed to a new archdiocese, he would receive a new pallium the next June, and the earlier palliium/pallia would be “retired,” though still in his possession.

    In the rare event a Metropolitan would be assigned to be ordinary of an ordinary diocese (not Archdiocese), there is the construct of being assigned the “personal style/dignity off Archbishop.” Fulton J. Sheen was an archbishop with a personal archiespiscopal dignity, not a jurisdictional one. The same holds true for many members of the Vatican Diplomatic Corps (Nuncios, Legates, etc.)

  11. Tim Ferguson says:

    It’s important to note that the pallia are not given to archbishops, but to metropolitan archbishops. There are some Archdioceses that are not Metropolitanates (the US Military Archdiocese, for one). Neither are titular archbishops given pallia as a matter of course (the Pope remains free to grant the pallium to whomever he choses, and can grant one to a mere bishop, and has, historically done so, but not in recent history).

  12. irishgirl says:

    asophist-I stand corrected! But hey, what do I know….I’m a stupid laywoman!

    nazareth priest-it’s a day late, but…happy anniversary, anyway!

  13. simo says:

    ooh, this is working again. now my question. Why did Pope Benedicat leave his Pallium at the tomb of Pope Celestine V, who was the only pope to resign his office? He did this right after giving a sermon on the evils attacking the church. What is the meaning of this? He isn’t thinking of retiring is he?

Comments are closed.