Pallium Ceremony: Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul

As I just got back from my first trip to Rome a few weeks ago, (:thumbsup:) I recently picked up a book on St. Peter’s Basilica. The author, Keith Miller, begins by describing the 2006 Papal Mass on the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul at which Pope Benedict bestowed new archbishops with their pallia. One passage caught my eye: “He drapes [the pallia] around the shoulders of twenty-seven newly-appointed metropolitan bishops in turn, and then around those of the Archbishop Secretary of the Congregation [for] Bishops, who stands in for every other bishop in the Catholic world.”

I found this odd for two reasons. First, I thought the pallium ceremony was only about archbishops, not about all Catholic bishops. Second, I thought that only those archbishops of actual sees could receive a pallium; therefore, the Secretary of the Congregation for Bishops would be ineligible for one.

It’s possible that the author misinterpreted what he was seeing; I don’t think he’s Catholic. On the other hand, does the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul include a ceremony for all Catholic bishops that I’m simply not aware of?


The pallium is given to Metropolitan Archbishops during the Mass for the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul. Now, there are some prelates who are elevated to the dignity of Archbishop. These would include Apostolic Delegates/Nuncios who serve as the “ambassadors”, per se, of the Holy See to the various countries. There are other prelates who are elevated to the rank of Archbishop. These might include the secretaries to the various Congregations. That is as far as I know.

Only Metropolitan Archbishops are entitled to the pallium. Titular archbishops (i.e. nuncios and members of diacasteries) and archbishops (personal title) don’t receive the pallium. Titular and archbishops (personal title) don’t have jurisdiction over anything. The pallium is a sign of jurisdiction. As the Wikipedia entry states:
The use of the pallium is reserved to the pope and archbishops who are metropolitans, but the latter may not use it until it is conferred upon them by the pope, normally at the celebration of the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul in June. The pallium is also conferred upon the Latin Rite Patriarch of Jerusalem. Previous traditions that allowed some other bishops to use the pallium were ended by Pope Paul VI in a motu proprio in 1978.[4] A metropolitan archbishop may wear his pallium as a mark of his jurisdiction not only in his own archdiocese but anywhere in his ecclesiastical province whenever he celebrates Mass (Canon 437, Code of Canon Law, 1983)[/INDENT]

I remember reading that there is a saying “All metropolitans are archbishops but not all archbishops are metropolitans.” There are archbishops in Europe who head archdioceses who aren’t metropolitans.

One more thing on a similar note, I have seen the word Metropolitan misused on this board. It is my understanding that a Metropolitan Archbishop holds two titles. He is Archbishop of his Archdiocese and he is Metropolitan of his Province. When he is performing functions of the archbishop of his archdiocese (confirming, ordaining, presiding at the Charism Mass), he is acting as archbishop. When he is doing the functions of the metropolitan of his province, he is a metropolitan. The two titles are not interchangeable. For example, a few months ago, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Houston-Galveston, Cardinal DiNardo, presided over a Mass for the bishop and priests of the Diocese of Brownsville (one of his suffragan dioceses). He was fully vested and presided over the Mass. Bishop Pena of the Diocese of Brownsville was a concelebrant. In that capacity. In that Mass, he was the Metropolitan of the Houston-Galveston Province.

From what I understand, the titles archbishop and metropolitan aren’t interchangeable. Neither are the titles of ordinary and bishop. (There are bishops who aren’t ordinaries (i.e. auxillary bishops, bishops who are members of diacasteries, nuncios, vicars apostolic, prefects apostolic, personal prelates, etc.)

I found the following entry on the Whispers in the Loggia blog,

As for the pallium’s exclusive possession by metropolitan archbishops, John Paul broke that custom in 2003, when he conferred it on then-Cardinal Ratzinger at the close of the Lenten spiritual exercises of the Roman Curia. (Ratzinger already had one from his days as archbishop of Munich and Freising, but was prohibited from wearing it once he had arrived in Rome in 1981.) No one could understand why it was done at the time – whether it was John Paul’s indication of his chosen successor, simply a sign of favor or in token of Ratzinger’s position as dean of the College of Cardinals. When a pallium is conferred on a non-metropolitan, it may be worn freely outside the city of Rome, and there are numerable photos of Ratzinger wearing his, particularly on his summer sojourns in Germany in 2003 and 2004.

Whatever the case behind the original act, Benedict XVI has continued this new custom, conferring his first pallium on his successor as Cardinal-Dean, Angelo Sodano.

The cardinals are also broken down into orders: there are Cardinal Bishops, Cardinal Priests and Cardnial Deacons. John Paul’s choice to do this was, I believe, a sign of favor to his friend and as a special significance of the fact that Ratzinger had been elected dean of the College of Cardinals. Benedict probably retained the practice only because Sodano was chosen as the next dean.

Pope John Paul II was known for his grand gestures of gifts. For example, he gave his ring to village in South America. Which begs this question: did he give Cardinal Ratzinger one of the pallia that a Metropolitan would have gotten at the vesture ceremony on Sts. Peter and Paul Day or did he give Cardinal Ratzinger one of his own personal pallia?

I found something of an answer to my original question. The Vatican’s summary of 2004 Papal Mass on the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul states:

"27. The Metropolitans, accompanied by their masters of ceremonies, ascend individually and kneel on the cushion in front of the Holy Father, who imposes the Pallium on each and exchanges a sign of peace.

  1. The Archbishop Secretary of the Congregation for Bishops then received from the Holy Father the Pallia for the Metropolitans who are absent. The Pallium will be given to them by the Papal Representative in their own countries."

From this, it seems my author probably was wrong about the 2006 ceremony. The Vatican text differentiates between the new metropolitan archbishops who had a pallium imposed on them and the Secretary of the Congregation for Bishops, who simply received the pallia of those new metropolitan archbishops not in attendance. In short, Pope Benedict probably just presented the Secretary with the pallia of the absent Metropolitans.

For the full Vatican document, see

Also conversely, (some??) abbots are considered Ordinaries, but are not Bishops.

It’s interesting that although every residential Archbishop or Metropolitan is entitled to the pallium, it is not automatically bestowed on them. They must request the pallium formally from the Holy Father, either through his representative at the nunciature or legation of their nation, within three months of their promotion to the position of Metropolitan Archbishop. The expectation is that they will make this request shortly after arriving in their new see. . Because the pallium is the symbol of the fullness of episcopal power enjoyed by the pope and shared in by the archbishops, they may not exercise metropolitan jurisdiction or those episcopal powers which require its’ liturgical use (eg. ordinations) until they receive it. Since it is symbol of jurisdiction, if a residential archbishop is transferred to a new see, he will have to formally request a new pallium.
Until fairly recent times, in countries far distant from Rome where travel would have been too costly, dangerous or too time consuming, the pallium was bestowed on the new metropolitan by cardinals, nuncios, primates or apostolic delegates. Now that air travel is so fast, all new metropolitans are expected to be present in Rome for their investure on the next Feast of SS. Peter and Paul that follows their promotion in rank and position.
The pallium is worn only within the metropolitan’s own province, and only for special days and pontifical Masses. However, ( according to one book I have ) in countries which have a primate, he is allowed to wear the pallium even when visiting another province. For example, Cardinal Marc Ouellet is the Archbishop of Quebec but he is also the Primate of Canada. If he were to visit Toronto for a particular celebration, it would be he who would be entitled to wear the pallium, not Archbishop Collins, the Metropolitan of the Toronto Archdiocese. This seems a bit odd to me, since cardinals must always defer to the metropolitan archbishop within his province and the title of Primate is nowdays more or less obsolete and primates don’t usually exercise any jurisdiction outside their own. The rules of Church protocol are so intricate they are sometimes hard to understand. For me anyways!
As for John Paul II bestowing the pallium on Cardinal Ratzinger after he became Dean of the College of Cardinals. It has always been the pope’s perogative to reserve for himself the right to present the pallium to nonmetropolitan archbishops and bishops as a sign of unique or special honour to them. It was a rare honour and seldomly done. For John Paul to use that privilege, and more recently for Benedict XVI to present the pallium to Cardinal Sodano, it was even more unique since a decree in 1978 reserved the pallium, “once and for all” to metropolitans and the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem.

I also found it unusual. I thought that perhaps both of them could wear it.

The answer is “no”. Only one prelate can wear the pallium at any given liturgical ceremony and that is the one who has jurisdiction in that particular ecclesiastical province. Even cardinals who have been invested with it must defer to the Metropolitan of that jurisdiction. Of course, the pope has universal jurisdiction so he wears his all the time. The idea of primate means that that particular archbishop is “first among equals” in his nation where there is an office of primate.
I’m not sure if this custom is still maintained in Canada though. I do remember when I was young, Cardinal Maurice Roy, who was the Cardinal Archbishop of Quebec ( the primatial see of Canada) coming to our archdiocesan cathedral in Kingston for a special Mass and he wore the pallium, not the Archbishop. Cardinal McGuigan of Toronto was also present. I also remember my father wondering why that was so and my uncle, who was the rector of the cathedral at the time, telling us about primatial privileges. This was back in the late 1960’s.
Archbishop Collins has two palliums since he received his first one when he became Archbishop of Edmonton in 1998.

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