There was a lovely, intimate reception at noon today at the North American College for the lone U.S. archbishop to receive his pallium from the Pope at Mass this morning in St. Peter’s Basilica, Abp. Bernie Hebda of Minneapolis-St. Paul. I had the pleasure of meeting quite a number of family members who were in Rome for the ceremony, including one aunt for whom this is her first visit to the Eternal City.

We have known each other for quite some time and he is, quite simply, one of my favorite human beings, one of the best priests you’ll ever know! A totally humble man with great talent and a wonderful sense of humor, he is one of the most appreciated prelates I have ever known. I had been working in the Roman Curia since 1990, a year when many Americans, lay people and priests, were called to Rome, and our friend Bernie came in 1995

The smiling prelate we all know –

Bernie 2

When Fr. Hebda, a native of Pittsburgh, was first called to the episcopacy, he was appointed to the diocese of Gaylord in Michigan, a diocese that wept when he was called to Newark as coadjutor in September 2013. Newark rejoiced in his presence but not for long as he was appointed to Minneapolis-St. Paul in March of this year, following a year as  apostolic administrator of that archdiocese (simultaneous with serving as coadjutor archbishop of Newark. While in the curia, my good friend was undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts.

Bernie   1

At the end of today’s pallium Mass in St. Peter’s, the Pope spoke briefly to each of the new metropolitans but took a bit more time when speaking of Abp. Hebda. And here’s possibly why that happened: A coadjutor automatically succeeds the archbishop of a diocese when he retires or dies. In my recollection, my many years of work at VIS, I don’t recall a coadjutor being moved from the diocese to which he should succeed to yet a new diocese as archbishop. Perhaps my memory is faulty but no one I spoke to today at the reception – including the new metropolitan – can remember that happening.

In any case, my wonderful friend, countless people wish you well and are praying for you like mad! God sit on your shoulder!


In St. Peter’s Basilica today, June 29, solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles, Pope Francis handed 25 new metropolitan archbishops the pallium which is the sign of their ties with the Pope, the Successor of St. Peter and their authority in their own archdiocese. The 25 new archbishops were those named after July 1, 2015. June 29 is a holiday in Rome as well as the Vatican.

In 2015 Francis changed the traditional ceremony in which the prelates receive the pallium, deciding that the public ceremony of investiture of the pallium on metropolitan archbishops will henceforth take place in their home dioceses and not in the Vatican as has been the case under recent pontiffs.

The Holy Father today concelebrated Mass with the new archbishops and afterwards gave each metropolitan the pallium in what the Vatican called when announcing the change “a private manner.” The Pope also spoke briefly to each metropolitan at that time.

The pallium is a white woolen circular band embroidered with six black crosses which is worn over the shoulders and has two hanging pieces, one in front and another in back. Worn by the Pope and by metropolitan archbishops, it symbolizes authority and expresses the special bond between the bishops and the Roman Pontiff. In a 1978 document, “Inter Eximina Episcopalis,” Pope Paul VI restricted its use to the Pope and metropolitan archbishops. Six years later, Pope John Paul decreed that it would be conferred on the metropolitans by the Pope on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.

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Every year in the Vatican, on January 21, in keeping with the tradition for the liturgical memory of St. Agnes, two lambs, blessed earlier in the morning in the Roman basilica named for this saint, are presented to the Pope. The lambs are raised by the Trappist Fathers of the Abbey of the Three Fountains. When their wool is shorn, the Sisters of St. Cecelia weave it into the palliums (pallia is another plural form) that, on the June 29th feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles, are given to new metropolitan archbishops as signs of their office.

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Usually in attendance at the January 21 ceremony in the Apostolic Palace are 21 people, including two Trappist fathers, several nuns, two canons of the Chapter of St. John, the dean of the Roman Rota, and two officials from the Office of the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, and a number of other invited guests.

The baby lambs, under one year of age, are normally tucked into wicker baskets, and both lambs and baskets are adorned with red and white ribbons and flowers, white to symbolize purity and red to signify the blood of a martyr. In 2004 St. John Paul II blessed the lambs during a general audience in the Paul VI Hall as both the audience and St. Agnes’ feast day occurred on a Wednesday.

Pallium 2013


Agnes died about 305 and is buried in the basilica named for her on Rome’s Via Nomentana. Historical accounts vary about the birth, life and manner of death of Agnes but generally it is recounted that, in order to preserve her virginity, she was martyred at a very young age, probably 12. She is usually depicted with a lamb because the Latin word so similar to her name, agnus, means “lamb.” The name Agnes is actually derived from the feminine Greek adjective hagné meaning “chaste, pure.”