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Friday, June 27, 2003


VATICAN CITY, JUN 27, 2003 (VIS) - Every year on the June 29th solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles, the Roman Pontiff, during a solemn Eucharistic concelebration, bestows the pallium on new metropolitan archbishops.

The pallium is a white woolen circular band embroidered with six black crosses which is worn over the shoulders and has two hanging pieces, in front and in back. Worn by metropolitan archbishops and by the Pope himself, the pallium symbolizes authority and expresses a particular bond of union with the Roman Pontiff. Palliums are made from the wool shorn from lambs that are blessed by the Pope on the feast of St. Agnes.

In the 1978 document, "De Sacrii Pallii" (Inter Eximia Episcopalis), Pope Paul Vl restricted use of the pallium to the Pope and metropolitan archbishops. In 1984 John Paul II decreed that it would be conferred on the metropolitans by the Pope on the June 29 feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. Archbishops wear the pallium only in their own archdiocese and only on those days and occasions specified in the 'Pontificale' (a liturgical book which contains the rites for the performance of episcopal functions, with the exception of Mass and Divine Office) or otherwise decreed by the Holy Father. Palliums are worn over the chasuble.

Pope John Paul has, in past ceremonies, spoken of the meaning of the pallium: "The communion of faith is expressed in today's solemn celebration, also through the meaningful gesture of the imposition of the sacred pallium" on the metropolitan archbishops. "The pallium that you receive today is an expression of that unity with the See of Peter and of that witness in agreement with the Christian faith, which must characterize your episcopal ministry."

Every year on the January 21 liturgical memory of the virgin-martyr St. Agnes, for whom the traditional symbol is a lamb, the Pope blesses several baby lambs whose wool will be used to make the palliums. The centuries-old tradition is celebrated annually on the feast of St. Agnes who died about 350 and is buried in the basilica named after her on Rome's Via Nomentana. The lambs are raised by the Trappist Fathers of the Abbey of the Three Fountains and the palliums of the newly-shorn wool are made by the sisters of St. Cecilia. Usually in attendance at the ceremony, which takes place in the Pope's private apartments, are two Trappist fathers, two canons of the Chapter of St. John, the dean of the Roman Rota, two "sediari" (former papal chair bearers and now ceremonial officials) and two officials from the Office of the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff.

The new palliums are blessed each year by the Pope on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. They are then put into a coffer below the Altar of the Confessional, where they remain for a year, at which time they are removed and bestowed on the new metropolitans.

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