Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The "Pasta Pilgrimage" Countdown

Next Monday, five American archbishops -- the largest US contingent this decade -- will join some 30 new metropolitans from around the globe in receiving the pallium from Pope Benedict on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul.

Its origin dating to Christianity's earliest days, the two-inch woolen band worn over the shoulders symbolizes the "easy yoke" of the Lord. Representing the "fullness of the episcopal office," the liturgical vestment is used by metropolitan archbishops within their respective provinces as a sign of their union with Peter's successor -- further underscoring the significance, the pallia spend the night before their conferral in the Apostle's tomb.

For most of its history as a sign of authority, the pallium was sent from Rome and bestowed on a new archbishop in his cathedral; in 1984, the global rite was instituted by Pope John Paul II. The band's conferral is not automatic -- a newly-named archbishop must formally request it within three months of his appointment. Additionally, an archbishop-elect may receive the pallium in advance of entering his new charge, yet if he's transferred, it doesn't travel; an archbishop named to another metropolitan church must receive a new one tied to his new home, hence an encore appearance next week for Archbishops Tim Dolan of New York, given his first one (left) as archbishop of Milwaukee in 2003, and Vincent Nichols of Westminster, who received one as archbishop of Birmingham in 2000.

While the holders of the English-speaking church's two most influential posts will return in short order with larger pilgrimages on their elevation to the College of Cardinals, for most of the archbishops, next week is their lone moment in the Roman sun, and they're keen to make the most of it.

Almost all the prelates flood the city with groups of supporters from home. Traditionally the last major Vatican function before the Pope and Curia flee the city for their summer getaways, June's last days have become one of the Urb's standard booked-solid weeks as clerics, the committed and curious alike descend to see the pontiff and cheer on their own, and the traveling circuit pops in to wind down its official business for the year.

While Archbishops Allen Vigneron of Detroit, Bob Carlson of St Louis and the still to be installed George Lucas of Omaha and Gregory Aymond of New Orleans round out this year's Stateside class, the global contingent joining Nichols and the Americans is fairly impressive, including Archbishops Giuseppe Betori of Florence, Orani Tempesta of Rio de Janiero, Braulio Rodríguez Plaza of Toledo (the Spanish primate), José Luis Escobar Alas of San Salvador, the dual-citizen Basilian Michael Miller of Vancouver, the former CDW secretary Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo and Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki of Lviv, the beloved junior secretary of the Polish Pope.

To keep the folks at home plugged-in on Vigneron's journey, the Motor City's got a blog up and running... this time around, however, the week's stage arguably belongs to the "Rome of the West"; with the newly-arrived Carlson and native sons Dolan and Lucas all getting their turn before B16, the St Louis pilgrims are getting a hat-trick special.

It's not the red hat the Gateway City once enjoyed, but at least it's something.

More as the metros depart and Monday nears... as always, stay tuned.

PHOTOS: Reuters(1); Sam Lucero(2)