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. MetropolitanA metropolitan is an archbishop who presides over an ecclesiastical province […]
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 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:
The following two archbishops will receive the pallium in their metropolitan sees:
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.