Give your lives for your flocks, Pope Francis tells archbishops

Thursday, July 11, 2019 - Updated: 3:55 pm

By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Blessing bands of wool that archbishops will wear around their shoulders, Pope Francis said, “It is a sign that the shepherds do not live for themselves but for the sheep.”

“It is a sign that, in order to possess life, we have to lose it, give it away,” the pope said during his homily at Mass for the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul June 29.

The 30 archbishops receiving palliums included: Archbishops Wilton Gregory of Washington; Michael Byrnes of Agana, Guam; Peter Comensoli of Melbourne, Australia; Peter Hundt of St. John’s, Newfoundland; and John Wilson of Southwark, England. A pallium also was blessed for Archbishop Michael Mulhall of Kingston, Ontario, who reportedly was unable to attend.

The palliums are a woolen band that the heads of archdioceses wear around their shoulders over their Mass vestments.

Benedictine nuns at the Monastery of St. Cecilia in Rome use wool from lambs blessed by the pope each year on the Jan. 21 feast of St. Agnes 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.

“I love the imagery” of the pallium, Archbishop Byrnes told Catholic News Service. “Just the way it’s shaped suggests carrying the lamb on your shoulders.”

The 60-year-old archbishop was an auxiliary bishop in Detroit until he was sent to Guam amid turmoil surrounding sexual abuse allegations against the previous archbishop and concerns about his administration of the archdiocese. A Vatican court later found former Archbishop Anthony Apuron guilty of the sexual abuse of minors.

The pallium, given to archbishops by the pope, also is a sign of their unity with him as they minister to a portion of the Catholic “flock.” So, Archbishop Byrnes said, it is a sign of his obedience to the pope, but also expresses “my obedience, of a sort, to the people of Guam,” and the obligation to respond to and assist them.

When asked if there is a particular group in the archdiocese that he carries as lambs on his shoulders, he immediately responded, “the victim-survivors are in my daily prayer” and “those are the people I carry most in my heart.”

Archbishop Gregory said that receiving the pallium “is not simply an honor, it’s a challenge and a responsibility, which I gladly accept at his (the pope’s) invitation.”

The archbishop said, “I look forward to caring for the flock in Washington to the best of my ability.”

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