More photos here.

Today is the Feast of Ss. Peter and Paul, the patrons of the Church and the city of Rome as well. It is the traditional day on which the pallium is bestowed on archbishops, and, as Rocco notes, it is also the 55th anniversary of Pope Benedict’s ordination to the priesthood.

In addition to the 27 archbishops (and 2 cardinals) receiving the pallium, present in the congregation was a delegation from the Orthodox Church, traditional on this occasion. As the CNS story says:

Greeting visitors gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the midday recitation of the Angelus after Mass, Pope Benedict said the delegation’s presence added even more joy to the feast-day celebration.

He thanked Patriarch Bartholomew for sending the delegation, which makes "even more evident the bonds of fraternity existing between our churches."

After Mass, the Pope and the head of the Orthodox delegation prayed together at St. Peter’s tomb, under the main altar of the Basilica.

Fr. Z was there and shares with us the oath the Archbishops take as well as the blessing of the pallia:

When the Pope places the pallium on the neck of the archbishop kneeling before him, he says:

For the glory of Almighty God and the praise of the blessed Virgin Mary and of saints Peter and Paul, for the decorum of the Sees committed to you, unto a sign of the authority of a metropolitan, we bestow upon you the Pallium taken from the Confession of saint Peter, so that you may use it within the confines of your ecclesiatical provinces.

May this Pallium be for your a symbol of unity and a token (tessera) of communion with the Apostolic See; may it be a bond of charity (vinculum caritatis) and a spur of fortitude, so that in the day of the Coming and the revelation of the great God and prince of shepherds Jesus Christ, you may together with the the flocks entrusted to you obtain (potiamini) the stole of immortality and glory.

There are some nice things here.  First, the image of a tessera is lovely.  A tessera is literally a small block or cube.  It is used to describe the little cubes that make up a mosaic.  It is still the Italian word for an officially issued pass or a ticket or i.d. card.  In this case it makes me think of how each of these archbishops, so different in themselves and in very different places through the world, are contributing in their individual way to the "big picture". 

Also in mosaics in the apses of ancient Roman churches you often see very courly sheep processing solemnly to the center of the mosaics where they are being gathered together under Christ, flanked by his apostles.  The are coming to drink of flowing, living water.  These are symbols of the life to come.  I believe that this is what the prayer is driving at.  It is meant to invokce this image.  The play on the word potiamini is a subtle triumph here. Potiamini is from potior, one of those word that takes the ablative, and means "attain, obtain" or "drink".  However, it also calls instantly to mind the word potio "a drinking".

And the homily (excerpts from AsiaNews, full text will be posted when it appears somewhere) – typical Benedetto clarity and grace, always giving us something new to chew on:

During the mass, explaining the logic of the three Gospel passages, he said they “tackle the same task, but the diversity of situations and imagery used makes it clear for us what interested and interests the Lord.” The first was the passage from Matthew in which “his specific task is conferred upon him through three images: that of the rock that becomes the foundation or cornerstone; that of the keys and of loosening and binding”. At this time, continued the pope, “I do not intend to interpret once again these three images, which the Church, throughout the centuries, has constantly explained anew; rather, I would like to draw attention to the geographical and chronological context of these words. The promise was made near the source of the Jordan, at the border of Jewish land, on edge of the Pagan world. The moment in which the promise was made marks a decisive turning point in the journey of Jesus: now the Lord is walking toward Jerusalem, and for the first time, he tells his disciples that this journey towards the Holy City is a journey to the Cross.” “Both things go together and determine the inner place of the Primacy, in fact, of the church in general: the Lord is continually on a journey towards the Cross, towards the lowliness of the suffering and killed servant of God, but at the same time, he is also headed for the vastness of the world, in which He goes before us as the Risen Lord, so that the light of his word and the presence of his love may shine in the world.”

“The Church – and Christ in it – still suffers today. In the Church, Christ is relentlessly mocked and stricken over and again; there are always efforts to push it out of the world. The small boat of the Church is forever being buffeted by the wind of ideologies that penetrate it with their waters, seemingly condemning it to sink. And yet, right in the suffering Church, Christ is victorious. Notwithstanding everything, faith in Him is renewed in strength again and again. Still today, the Lord commands the waters and reveals himself as the Lord of the elements. He stays on his boat, the ship of the Church. Thus even in the ministry of Peter is revealed on the one hand the weakness of what comes from man, but together with the strength of God.”

The CNS story:

During the Mass, the pope gave the archbishops named within the previous year a pallium, a circular band of white wool marked with six black crosses. The pallium symbolizes an archbishop’s authority and unity with the pope.

The pope and archbishops were dressed in brilliant red vestments, but the pope wore a longer, more traditional style of the pallium, which he reintroduced after his installation last year as bishop of Rome.

Among the 27 archbishops receiving palliums were U.S. Archbishops Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, George H. Niederauer of San Francisco and Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, as well as Canadian Archbishop Sylvain Lavoie of Keewatin-Le Pas, Manitoba.

Gashwin Gomes remembers attending Solemn Vespers for this feast in Rome a few years ago:

A truly memorable occasion. It was one of the times that I saw Pope John Paul II, and the first time I saw then Cardinal Ratzinger. I’d gotten there early, and several prelates walked up the central aisle, without eliciting much from the assembled crowd. Except Ratzinger. A rustle as he walked up, smiling. "Guardi Ratzinger!" several people next to me exclaimed. I truly regret that in a fit of piety I decied not to take my camera with me. No one else, apparently, was that pious. The other memory is that of the famous statue of St. Peter by Arnolfo di Cambio, decked out in red for the Feast. It looked spectacular.

Can anyone track down a photo for that statue? And of the net hanging in the Basilica for the feast? In all of the press photos of this event, you’d think someone would focus on these little points of interest, but to my knowledge…no.

In addition, Gashwin has an account of visiting the St. Thomas (Anglican) Cathedral in Bombay. Very interesting.

Also, do check out Mike Aquilina – lots of good links and citations of the Fathers on Ss. Peter and Paul.

Finally (I keep running across these links) Fr. Guy at Shouts in the Piazza has comments on the Mass today and an explanation of the pallium

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