Lambs Blessed at Audience

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 21, 2004 ( The bleating of two lambs accompanied John Paul II’s final words at the general audience, startling the 4,000 pilgrims present.

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The two animals were presented to the Pope, each in a basket decorated with flowers, for his blessing. Their wool will be used for the palliums the Holy Father will give to new archbishops on June 29, solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul.

The blessing usually takes place every year on the feast of St. Agnes, in private, in the papal apartments. On this occasion, since the martyr’s feast coincided with today’s general audience, John Paul II asked that the ceremony be held in Paul VI Hall.

The pallium is a white woolen band, 4 to 6 centimeters (about 2 inches) in width, with sewn black silk crosses. They symbolize the lost and found sheep, carried on the shoulders of the Good Shepherd, as well as the Lamb crucified for the salvation of humanity.

A symbol of the bishops’ closeness to the Apostolic See, the pallium is placed on their shoulders, recalling the shape of the lamb.

Initially, this symbol was exclusively the pope’s. Later it was given to bishops who received a special jurisdiction from the Apostolic See. Pope Symmachus gave it to Cesarius, bishop of Arles, in 513.

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