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Pope presents the pallium to metropolitan archbishops

30 November, 1999

On Sunday next, 29th June, the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles, Pope Benedict will confer the pallium on a number of metropolitan archbishops appointed during the course of the last year at a concelebrated Mass in the Vatican Basilica. Patrick Duffy explains.

A metropolitan is an archbishop who presides over an ecclesiastical province within which there are a number of suffragan dioceses. For example, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin has three suffragan dioceses – Ferns, Kildare and Leighlin and Ossory.

The pallium
The pallium is a sacred vestment worn (over the chasuble) about the neck, breast and shoulders by the Pope and metropolitan archbishops. It is a circular band made of white wool about two inches wide and it has two pendants, one hanging down in front and one behind, about twelve inches long, weighted with small pieces of lead covered with black silk.  The ornamentation of the pallium consists of six small black crosses, one each on the breast and back, one on each shoulder and one on each pendant.

Originally a papal vestment: extended to metropolitans
It seems to have originated in the fourth century as the liturgical badge of the Pope, but was then conferred on the Bishop of Ostia because he was the one authorised to install the Pope.

By the ninth century it was widely conferred on all metropolitan archbishops. They had to apply to Rome for it and actually receive it before they could exercise their authority as metropolitans. Since that time it has always been seen as the badge of the metropolitan archbishop. 

In the Middle Ages awarding the pallium became controversial as popes were charging a fee for it, but this practice was condemned and stopped by the Council of Basle in 1432.

Revival of its use as a papal vestment
Only in recent times has the pallium come back into use as a papal vestment. On September 3, 1978, in a desire not to be associated with the trappings of monarchy, Pope John Paul I chose it as his form of investiture rather than be crowned with what had, for some centuries, become the traditional papal tiara.  His successor, Pope John Paul II, also used it for his investiture.

Pope Benedict XVI, however, reverted to an earlier form of the pallium, slightly larger, and more like the Eastern omophrion. It is decorated with five red crosses and instead of two short pendants back and front, it has one longer pendant hanging pinned from the left shoulder. (You can actually see the contrast in the image on the homepage: it shows Archbishop Jaume Pujol Balcells of Tarragona in Spain receiving the pallium from Pope Benedict in 2005).

For a Pope the pallium is now taken to symbolise the fullness of the pontifical office (plenitudo officii pontificalis) which he receives at his investiture: for metropolitans it is taken as a sign of their authority and leadership as metropolitans and especially of their unity with the Apostolic See of Peter.

Forty-one archbishops will concelebrate the Mass and receive the pallium

  1. Cardinal John Njue, archbishop of Nairobi, Kenya;
  2. His Beatitude Fouad Twal, recently appointed patriarch of Jerusalem of the Latins;
  3. Archbishop Michel Christian Cartatéguy SMA of Niamey, Niger;
  4. Archbishop Edwin Frederick O’Brien of Baltimore, USA;
  5. Archbishop Francisco Perez Gonzalez of Pamplona and Tudela, Spain;
  6. Archbishop Lorenzo Voltolini Esti of Portoviejo, Ecuador;
  7. Archbishop Paolo Pezzi FSCB of Mother of God in Moscow, Russia;
  8. Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of Minsk-Mohilev, Belarus;
  9. Archbishop Andres Stanovnik OFMCap of Corrientes, Argentina;
  10. Archbishop Anthony Mancini of Halifax, Canada;
  11. Archbishop Martin William Currie of Saint John’s, Newfoundland, Canada;
  12. Archbishop Mauro Aparecido dos Santos of Cascavel, Brazil;
  13. Archbishop Giancarlo Maria Bregantini CSS of Campobasso-Boiano, Italy;
  14. Archbishop John Hung Shan-Chuan SVD of Taipei, Taiwan;
  15. Archbishop Matthew Man-Oso Ndagoso of Kaduna, Nigeria;
  16. Archbishop Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, Germany;
  17. Archbishop Oscar Urbina Ortega of Villavicencio, Colombia;
  18. Archbishop Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo;
  19. Archbishop Willem Jacobus Eijk of Utrecht, Netherlands.
  20. Archbishop Antonio Jose Lopez Castillo of Barquisimeto, Venezuela.
  21. Archbishop Richard Anthony Burke SPS of Benin City, Nigeria.
  22. Archbishop Agustin Roberto Radrizzani SDB of Mercedes-Lujan, Argentina.
  23. Archbishop Jose Francisco Sanches Alves of Evora, Portugal.
  24. Archbishop Jan Babjak SJ of Presov for Catholics of Byzantine rite, Slovakia;
  25. Archbishop Giovanni Paolo Benotto of Pisa, Italy;
  26. Archbishop Stanislav Zvolensky of Bratislava, Slovakia;
  27. Archbishop Robert Rivas OP of Castries Santa Lucia;
  28. Archbishop Francesco Montenegro of Agrigento, Italy;
  29. Archbishop Louis Kebreau SDB of Cap Haitien, Haiti;
  30. Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot of Port-au-Prince, Haiti;
  31. Archbishop Laurent Ulrich of Lille, France;
  32. Archbishop John Ribat MSC of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea;
  33. Archbishop Thomas Kwaku Mensah of Kumasi, Ghana;
  34. Archbishop Thomas John Rodi of Mobile, USA;
  35. Archbishop Donald James Reece of Kingston in Jamaica, Jamaica;
  36. Archbishop Slawoj Leszek Glodz of Gdansk, Poland;
  37. Archbishop Peter J. Kairo of Nyeri, Kenya;
  38. Archbishop John Clayton Nienstedt of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, USA;
  39. Archbishop John Lee Hiong Fun-Yit Yaw of Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia;
  40. Archbishop Luis Gonzaga Silva Pepeu OFMCap of Vitoria da Conquista, Brazil;
  41. Archbishop Marin Srakic of Djakovo-Osijek, Croatia.

The following two archbishops will receive the pallium in their metropolitan sees:

  • Archbishop William D’Souza SJ of Patna, India;
  • Archbishop Edward Tamba Charles of Freetown and Bo, Sierra Leona.

One of the archbishops is an Irish missionary. Archbishop Richard Burke is a native of Fethard, Co. Tipperary, and a member St Patrick’s Missionary Society, Kiltegan, Co Wicklow. He was recently installed as archbishop of Benin City in southern Nigeria.