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Bestowing the pallium: sharing his authority and communion

30 November, 1999

Every pope receives the pallium along with the Fisherman’s Ring when he is invested at his first Mass as Pope. Every Feast of SS Peter and Paul, 29th June, the pope also imposes the pallium on each of the new metropolitan archbishops.

Every 29th June, the Feast of SS Peter and Paul, Pope Benedict XVI bestows the pallium on a number of new metropolitan archbishops at a concelebrated Mass in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. 

The pallium is a circular band of white lamb’s wool a few inches wide with six black or red crosses attached and is worn over the chasuble at Mass.  It also has an extended band falling down at the front and the back.

At his own first Mass as Pope, Benedict received the the pallium along with the Fisherman’s Ring  as part of his formal investiture.  The ceremony of bestowing it personally on all new metropolitan archbishops on the Feast of SS. Peter and Paul was begun in 1984 by Pope John Paul II and it has continued every year since.  It symbolises the sharing of the Pope’s authority and his communion with new archbishops who are the heads of major local churches throughout the world.

Historically the pallium was probably part of the attire of the Roman emperor, but early in the 4th century it became a symbol of papal authority and later also of collegiality.  Previous popes since the fourth century had regularly delegated the ceremony of imposing the pallium.  But Pope John Paul II, seeing the ceremony’s significance, used the Feast of SS Peter and Paul to gather the new metropolitan archbishops to Rome for a concelebrated Mass of collegiality in St Peter’s Basilica.  Pope Benedict is following this tradition.