VATICAN CITY, JUNE 29, 2001 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II today conferred the pallium on 36 metropolitan archbishops, and urged all bishops to be prepared, if necessary, to face martyrdom.
The pallium, a band of cloth accented with six black crosses and small pendants hanging down in front and back, is a token of the archbishops´ union with and obedience to the Pope. It is woven of wool from lambs offered to the Pope every year on Jan. 21, feast of St. Agnes.
For today´s feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, the Holy Father asked Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to preside over the Mass in St. Peter´s Square. Today is the 50th anniversary of the cardinal´s ordination to the priesthood.
Also present at the Mass were 150 recently named bishops, who are in Rome attending the first course organized by the Vatican Congregation for Bishops.
At one point, a storm suddenly broke, prompting many pilgrims in the square to put their chairs over their heads for protection. The concelebrating archbishops sought protection under white and yellow umbrellas.
In his homily, John Paul II addressed all the bishops: “In the different members of the ecclesial body that you represent here, there are hopes and joys and, of course, wounds are not lacking. I am thinking of the poverty, conflicts — at times, even persecutions. I am thinking of the temptations to secularism, indifference and practical materialism that undermine the vigor of the evangelical witness.”
The Pontiff said the Church needs bishops who feel “a longing to take the Good News of the love of God to every human being,” and, “if necessary,” are prepared to go all the way to martyrdom.