What the Pallium Signifies

Pope Recalls Celebration on Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 30, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address John Paul II gave today at the general audience, which he dedicated to reflect on the meaning of the pallium.

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Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Brothers and Sisters!

1. Yesterday we celebrated the solemnity of the Apostles Peter and Paul, venerated in a special way here in Rome, where both sealed with blood their wonderful testimony of love of the Lord. The solemn Eucharistic liturgy was enriched this year by the fraternal participation of His Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, to commemorate the 40 years of the historic meeting and embrace, in Jerusalem, between my venerable predecessor, the Servant of God Paul VI, and the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras.

Significant also was your presence, dear metropolitan archbishops, elected during the past year. I had the joy of bestowing the sacred pallium on you, and today I meet with you again. I greet you with great affection, together with your relatives and friends, and my thoughts also go to the communities entrusted to your pastoral care.

2. Your kind presence offers me the opportunity to reflect on the meaning of the ancient custom of the imposition of the palliums.

Since the ninth century, the archbishops nominated in the metropolitan sees receive from the pope a particular liturgical insignia, specifically the “pallium,” as testimony of communion with the Bishop of Rome. This insignia, which the Supreme Pontiff wears on all solemn celebrations and the metropolitans in particular circumstances, consists of a narrow stole of white wool worn around the neck. Every year palliums are made according to the number of new metropolitans. Blessed by the pope in the first vespers of the solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, they are put in an appropriate casket placed in the “Confession” of the Vatican basilica, near the tomb of the Apostle, to be bestowed the following day on the archbishops.

3. The sign of the pallium preserves even today a singular eloquence. It expresses the fundamental principle of communion, which gives form to ecclesial life in every one of its aspects; it reminds one that this communion is organic and hierarchical; it manifests that the Church, to be one, is in need of the peculiar service of the Church of Rome and of its Bishop, head of the College of Bishops (see postsynodal apostolic exhortation “Pastores Gregis,” 56).

The other complementary aspect, which the rite of the pallium illustrates very well, is that of the catholicity of the Church, which, in fact, was sent by Christ to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to serve the whole of humanity.

4. Dear brothers and sisters! Many of you wished to be with these prelates on such a significant occasion. They are your pastors! I invite you to remain united to them and to pray for the pastoral mission they are called to fulfill. My thoughts also go to the eight metropolitans who are not present, who will receive the pallium in their sees. Christ repeats to all, as he did one day to Peter: “Duc in altum!” He invites us to go into the deep and to enter confidently in the sea of life, trusting in the constant support of Mary, Mother of God, and in the intercession of the Apostles Peter and Paul, who with their blood fertilized the beginnings of the Church.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[At the end of the audience, one of the Pope’s collaborators read the following summary in English:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Yesterday we celebrated the solemnity of the Apostles Saints Peter and Paul, founders and glorious martyrs of the Church of Rome. Our celebration was enriched by the presence of His Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomaeus I, and by numerous metropolitan archbishops who received the pallium.

The pallium, a narrow stole of white wool worn around the neck, is a sign of unity and communion with the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, head of the College of Bishops. It also expresses the universality or catholicity of the Church, commissioned by Christ to preach the Gospel to all nations and to serve the whole world. The faithful who have come to the reception of the pallium are invited to remain in communion with their pastors and to pray for the pastoral mission entrusted to them.

Indeed all are invited to be courageous witnesses of the Gospel, setting out confidently “into the deep,” trusting in the intercession of Mary, Mother of God, and of the Apostles Peter and Paul.

[The Holy Father then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

I offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s audience. I greet particularly the groups from Ireland, Scotland, Taiwan, Canada, Japan and the United States of America. I thank the choirs for their praise of God in song.

My greeting goes especially to the numerous visitors who have come with their respective metropolitan archbishop for the reception of the pallium. Upon all of you I cordially invoke joy and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you, and have a pleasant stay in Rome!

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