Archbishops reflect on the meaning of the pallium

Abp. Jackels receives pallium from Pope Francis on June 29
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Making a pilgrimage to Rome with members of their flock, 34 archbishops named in the past year knelt before Pope Francis and received woolen bands symbolizing both their unity with him and their charge as shepherds of a local church.
At the beginning of a Mass June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, the pope bestowed the pallium, a woolen band worn around the shoulders, on archbishops from 19 countries. They included: U.S. Archbishops Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco; Joseph W. Tobin of Indianapolis; Alexander K. Sample of Portand, Ore.; and Michael O. Jackels of Dubuque, Iowa; and U.S.-born Archbishop Gintaras Grusas of Vilnius, Lithuania.
Each year on the Jan. 21 feast of St. Agnes, the pope blesses two lambs raised by Trappist monks outside Rome. Benedictine nuns at the Monastery of St. Cecilia in Rome use wool from the blessed lambs to make the palliums, which are kept by St. Peter’s tomb until the Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.
The palliums are about 3 inches wide and have a 14-inch strip hanging down the front and the back. The strips are finished with black silk, almost like the hooves of the sheep the archbishop is symbolically carrying over his shoulders.
Archbishop Jackels, one of the first bishops appointed by Pope Francis, told Catholic News Service, “To be quite honest, I was kind of hoping that maybe he would send the pallium by way of FedEx and say, ‘Save the money and give it to the poor.’”
“I love Rome, but it’s a hassle to travel and to be away from the archdiocese since I’ve only been there a month,” he said. However, the story of the blessed lambs and the nuns making the pallium and having all the archbishops come to Rome once a year to receive it underlines its importance.
“This notion of the lambs’ wool being placed over the shoulders of an archbishop is reminiscent of Jesus, the good shepherd, carrying the sheep back to the fold,” he said. It reminded him of Pope Francis’ talk to nuncios a week earlier about the qualities they should look for when suggesting candidates for him to name as bishops: “someone who is patient, gentle, merciful, like that image of the Good Shepherd carrying his sheep.”
Archbishop Jackels said that in receiving the pallium he would pray that he would be more patient, gentle and merciful.
Being Catholic in the United States today often means being countercultural, especially on themes related to “the sanctity of life and the dignity of the human person,” he said.