The Pontifical Nerd

The Pallium


Among the many liturgical insignia of the Supreme Pontiff, one of the more evocative is this white cloth above the chasuble and around his neck. Well, that my friends is called a Pallium. A Pallium is a vestment originally peculiar to the Supreme Pontiff but over the years bestowed by him to the appointed metropolitan archbishops. It is made out of white wool, “symbol of the bishop as the good shepherd and at the same time, of the lamb crucified for the salvation of human grace.”


According to the Liber Pontificalis, it was first used in the first half of the fourth century, although Tertullian wrote an essay no later than 220 AD titled De Pallio (On the Pallium). This book relates, in the life of Pope Marcus (†336), that he conferred the right of wearing the pallium on the Bishop of Ostia, because the consecration of the pope appertained to him. At any rate, the wearing of the pallium was usual in the fifth century; this is indicated by the above-mentioned reference contained in the life of St Marcus which dates from the beginning of the sixth century, as well as by the conferring of the pallium on St. Cæsarius of Arles by Pope Symmachus in 513.  Although I have yet to encounter a book indicating exactly when the pallium was introduced, at least we can determine that it may have started around 5th century.


In his book “The Liturgical Reflection of a Papal Master of Ceremonies” Monsignor Guido Marini said, and I quote “The pallium is the symbol of a special relationship with the Pope and expresses also the power that, in communion with the Church of Rome, the metropolitan acquires by right in his own jurisdiction.”

Another interesting fact about this can befoun in Canon Law 437 “The Metropolitan (Archbishop, I’m guessing) is obliged to request the pallium from the Roman Pontiff, either personally or by proxy, within three months of his episcopal appointment. The pallium signifies the power which, in communion with the Roman Church, the Metropolitan possesses by law in his own province.”


Yesterday, during the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, the Holy Father conferred the Pallium to four Filipino Archbishops namely Most Rev. Luis Antonio G. Tagle (Archbishop of Manila), Most Rev. John F. Du (Archbishop of Palo), Most Rev. Jose F. Advincula (Archbishop of Capiz) and Most Rev. Romula G. Valles (Archbishop of Davao) at St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome, Italy.


The Pallium of a metropolitan archbishop is a straight sash of material of almost 5 centimeters, made of white wool, curved at the center, thus allowing it to rest on the shoulders over the Roman or Gothic chasuble, and with two black flapsfalling in front and behind so that it may be seen in front or from behind. It is decorated by 6 crosses. On each cross (in the front just under the neck, and on both the left and right shoulders), there is a small loop, on which precious needles are pinned, the so called “Pallium pins” or “aciculae”, in Latin. Three pins are inserted into three of the crosses to remind him of the three nails that caused these wounds in each of the hands and the feet of Christ. Like all other Pallia, the end tips of the garment are embroidered with black silk, reminiscent of the feet of the lambs the Good Shepherd laid down his life for so that they may walk safely on the path of life.


On April 24, 2005 the Holy Father mentioned this in his homily during the Holy Mass inaugurating his Petrine Ministry: “The symbolism of the Pallium is even more concrete: the lamb’s wool is meant to represent the lost, sick, or weak sheep which the shepherd places on his shoulders and carries to the waters of life.”

The plain white wool of the Pallium also serves to remind the wearer that all power and authority comes from the Lamb of God. The lamb is often held as a symbol of peace —the Pallium too is a symbol of the mission to uphold the peace and unity of the Church and to be an apostle of the Prince of Peace.

I wish to end this by saying that what we see during mass is this:


What we ought to see is this:


Live long and prosper! \\\///

This entry was published on June 30, 2012 at 2:50 am and is filed under Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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