Pallium signifies unity with Rome as we strive to do God’s work

| Archbishop Bernard Hebda | July 7, 2016
Pope Francis presents Archbishop Bernard Hebda with his pallium at the Vatican June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. L’Osservatore Romano

Pope Francis presents Archbishop Bernard Hebda with his pallium at the Vatican June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. L’Osservatore Romano

On June 29, I had the privilege of a lifetime — the opportunity to concelebrate Mass with Pope Francis at St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican for the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul.

He had invited the 25 archbishops whom he had named in the course of the past year to be present for the blessing of the pallium, that narrow strip of cloth that is worn by an archbishop over his chasuble as an indicator of his office as metropolitan archbishop. While we often think about the pallium as a sign of authority, the woolen strip serves equally as a reminder to the archbishop that he is to imitate the humble service of the Good Shepherd, carrying the lost or wounded sheep.

By wearing the pallium, moreover, the archbishop manifests the unity that he shares with the pope, the successor of Peter. It will be his opportunity to express that the Catholic Church in his province is one with the Church of Rome. We might speak a different language, and our liturgies might at times reflect local variations, but we are essentially the same Church — the Church founded by Christ and built upon the apostles.

The liturgy in St. Peter’s was in itself a wonderful expression of both unity and diversity. We prayed some of the prayers in our common ecclesial language, Latin, but also made good use of English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish and German and a number of other languages. The archbishop on my right was from Cuba, and the one on my left was from Brazil. The Basilica was jammed with faithful from around the world, all united around the person of Pope Francis and the local Church of Rome, consecrated by the blood of the martyrs, Peter and Paul.

Back in our province — which consists of the dioceses of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota — our mission is to strengthen and protect the Church’s unity so that we together might give a credible witness to the Gospel.

In the listening sessions that were held throughout the archdiocese in the course of the past year, we often heard about our diversity being both a great gift and a great challenge. Instinctively, we understand that unity and uniformity are not the same thing. There has to be room for adaptation and differences of culture and tradition.
St. Augustine, the fourth-century bishop of Hippo, said it well when he called for “in essentials, unity; in doubtful matters, liberty; in all things, charity.”

In the two brief exchanges that I had with Pope Francis that day, I felt great love and encouragement for our local Church from him as he embraced his role of promoting unity. I would love to be able to offer that same encouragement on the local level, and hope that you will be patient as I learn how to do that better.

As Pope Francis preached about prayer being the “way out” of impossibly difficult circumstances, I couldn’t help but think that he, the successor of the very apostle whose miraculous liberation from prison was recounted in the first reading at Mass that day, was speaking directly to our experience in the archdiocese. The pope emphasized the importance of putting aside fear through prayer — “a humble entrustment to God and his holy will” — so that we might allow the Lord to open for us the surprising and liberating future that he desires, a future of imitating St. Peter and our patron, St. Paul, in “going out in service to the Gospel” (See Archbishop Hebda: Pallium Mass is celebration of unity and trust).

As we work to promote a spirit of unity in our community and among the parishes of our archdiocese, and as we struggle to extricate ourselves from the present entanglements that at times seem to be holding us back from doing the Lord’s work, let’s never forget that we have a God who brings freedom in response to the prayers of his community.

La unidad con Roma y entre nosotros

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Category: Only Jesus

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