Saturday, January 07, 2006

Of Provinces and Pallia

The current America contains a fine piece from Steven Schoenig, a Jesuit scholastic in line for a Ph.D. in Medieval history at Columbia, on one of our favorite liturgical vestments here at Loggia House -- the pallium -- emphasizing Benedict XVI's re-emphasis on it. (Above is a shot of the "Petrine pallium," a more prominent and historically-conscious version of the garment whose restoration was championed by the pre-eminent liturgical traditionalist seen adjusting it on B16.)
The new [post-1978] rite of inauguration has restored to its rightful place the imposition of the pallium, a more ancient and pastoral symbol than the crown.
Thank God.
Although its origin is shrouded in mystery, many scholars think that the pallium was derived from a sash granted to high-ranking imperial officials in the Christianized Roman Empire. The bishops of Rome appear to have used the pallium by the fourth or fifth century. Although its Eastern counterpart, the omophorion, was commonly worn by every bishop, in the West the pallium was at first exclusively an item of papal apparel.

By the sixth century, however, popes began bestowing it upon other Western bishops as a mark of distinction. Initially it was granted to papal vicars (like the bishop of Arles, who represented the pope in the regions of Gaul) and other bishops with special ties to the Apostolic See (such as the bishops of Sicily, who were immediately subject to the pope and administered large tracts of property for the Roman church). Missionaries sent with papal approval to organize the church among newly converted peoples, like St. Augustine of Canterbury in seventh-century England and St. Boniface in eighth-century Germany, were also in this category. Following these precedents, the pallium gradually became associated with metropolitans—archbishops who had authority over other bishops and jurisdiction over whole provinces. They were powerful linchpins in the ecclesiastical structure of the expanding Western church.

The pallium had been extended to all metropolitans by the ninth century. With it came deepening ties to the papacy. Pope John VIII (872-82) formally obliged metropolitans to submit a profession of faith and request the pallium from Rome within three months of their consecration. He further forbade them certain functions and prerogatives until they received it. Soon the pallium was considered to carry legal effects, including the right to consecrate bishops, hold synods and hear appeals from suffragan dioceses; without it a prelate could not be called an archbishop. In this way, an honorific privilege similar to the pope’s own insignia became a means of making metropolitans dependent on the Roman church. As popes in the 11th century sought to exercise a more centralized authority over the whole church in the interest of reform, the pallium’s role as an instrument of control grew. Pope Alexander II (1061-73) required an oath of allegiance to the Holy See before the vestment was bestowed, and Pope Gregory VII (1073-85) insisted that recipients come to Rome to receive it personally from the pontiff. In a culture that understood symbols as both signifying realities and bringing them about, the pallium also reflected and created status and authority for the chief shepherds of Christendom. It was a concrete expression of the way in which the bishop of Rome shared pastoral responsibility and power with other ecclesiastical potentates.

The physical form of the pallium, the regulation of its use and the meaning ascribed to it continued to evolve throughout the Middle Ages. It remained, however, unambiguously connected to the papacy. The pallium was a badge worn, interpreted and conferred by popes. It functioned effectively as a papal instrument, used to bind the far-flung provinces of the church to the Roman bishop and to promote the vision of a papally directed church.
The three-month rule, that a newly-appointed metropolitan must formally request it from his local papal legate, remains in canonical force.
[E]ach year on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul (June 29), the pope invests new archbishops from every land with the garment. New pallia are woven in part from the wool of lambs blessed every year on the feast of St. Agnes (Jan. 21) in the church of St. Agnes-Outside-the-Walls in Rome. On the evening before St. Peter’s Day, the pope places them overnight in an alcove below the high altar in St. Peter’s Basilica. This niche lies directly above the tomb of St. Peter himself, and so the pallia are thought to become contact relics, blessed by the apostle whom Jesus commanded to “tend his sheep” and “feed his lambs,” and offering a share in his authority. Reception of the pallium is thus a sign of a bond to the see of Peter and of participation in the pope’s universal solicitude as vicar of Christ, the Good Shepherd.
Yepper. But it really shouldn't be administered by the Pope personally, and doing so waters down the historical and theological significance of the act of conferral.

Paul VI's 1978 Inter eximia episcopalis called the pallium the symbol of "the fulness of the episcopal office," consigning it once and for all to metropolitan archbishops and the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem. John Paul II started giving it out on his own at the Ss. Peter and Paul Mass in 1984. Prior to then, it would be delivered and conferred by a papal legate in the metropolitan cathedral.

And in many ways, that's where it belongs -- the pallium is a sign of the communion which exists between a metropolitan church, of which the archbishop is simply the embodiment, and the chair of Peter. It is, as this piece notes, the concession of papal approval to a metropolitan (a position which, in former times, was elected by the bishops of a province, hence the term "suffragan bishop," which denotes a prelate with voting privileges). As it is the sign of that communion and approbation, it's something which the local church should be able to witness as opposed to a select clique having to travel to Rome for the event. We'll probably be seeing this re-devolution in the short-term future.

John Paul, it should be noted, was also the first to tinker with a re-vamped form of the small, black-and-white contemporary pallium, which was shortened in the 1600s so it wouldn't be too cumbersome for Roman-style vestments, more commonly known as fiddle-backs. On Christmas Eve, 1999 -- the opening of the Jubilee Year (and the same night he wore the cope still referred to as the "Technicolor Dreamcoat" to open the Holy Door) -- the late Pope donned a longer, thicker pallium made of a rougher-hewn wool and adorned with the medieval-style red crosses. Given the weight of it and his already-stooped posture, it was laid aside after that one airing.
Since the late Middle Ages, the importance of metropolitans has steadily waned, and the position of provinces in the church has lost much relevance. In current canon law the pallium has been reduced to a simple symbol lacking any real juridical force.
I guess word hasn't yet reached the Jesuits, but provinces are back -- and in a big way. And, ironically enough, the momentum for this return to more a localized, more ecclesiastical form of subdivision is coming from no less an organ than the episcopal conferences.

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.