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Sunday teaching: The Pallium

Metropolitan Archbishops also wear the pallium as a sign of this participation in the pointifical office.

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By Revd. Nick Agule

Friends please permit me to throw more light on a specific item of liturgical dress worn by the Pope and Metropolitan Archbishops. Some of us may already know about it. Some may have seen it without knowing the significance and others may not even have taken particular note of it.

This item of liturgical dress is called the Pallium. It is a circular band worn around the neck over the chasuble with two pendants one falling to the front and the other to the back. It is made of white wool from lambs which is an imagery of the Shepherd with the lamb across his shoulders. The pallium worn by the Pope symbolises the plenitudo pontificalis officii (i.e. the plenitude of pontifical office) as the Supreme Pontiff. The Pope shares this power with Metropolitan Archbishops to enable them participate in his pontificate. Metropolitan Archbishops amongst other roles
exercise vigilance so that the faith andecclesiastical discipline are observed carefully and to inform the Roman Pontiffof abuses, if there are any (Can 436).
Thus Metropolitan Archbishops also wear the pallium as a sign of this participation in the pointifical office.

The receipt of the pallium by Metropolitan Archbishops is covered under canon law as follows:

Can. 437 §1. Within three months from the reception of episcopal consecration or if he has already been consecrated, from the canonical provision, a metropolitan is obliged to request the pallium from the Roman Pontiff either personally or through a proxy. The pallium signifies the power which the metropolitan, incommunion with the Roman Church, has by law in his own province

After he receives the pallium, a Metropolitan Archbishop is expected to wear it within his province only. Thus Cardinal Onaiyekan wears the pallium anywhere he celebrates Mass in Abuja Ecclesiastical Province which comprises the dioceses of Abuja, Lafia, Makurdi, Gboko, Katsina Ala, Otukpo, Idah and Lokoja. However if Cardinal Onaiyekan travels to Lagos and he celebrates or concelebrates Mass he will not wear the pallium in Lagos instead it will be Archbishop Adewale Martins who will wear it. The situation is such that even if Cardinal Onaiyekan travels to Enugu diocese which is a suffragan of the Metropolitan of Onitsha and Bishop Onaga requests him specifically to wear the pallium in Enugu, Cardinal Onaiyekan will decline. This is covered under canon law as follows:

Can 437 §2. A metropolitan can use the pallium according to the norm of liturgical laws within any church of the ecclesiastical province over which he presides, but not outside it, even if the diocesan bishop gives his assent

The Pope on the other hand wears the pallium anywhere in the world where he celebrates Mass because he is the Bishop of the universal Church. Thus if Pope Francis visits Abuja and celebrates Mass there only the Pope will wear the pallium. Cardinal Onaiyekan will not wear the pallium because he wears it in exercise of the power granted him by the Pope (to act on behalf of the Pope) and since the Pope himself is around, Cardinal Onaiyekan will no longer need to act in his stead. If you can then watch the Pope on Sunday afternoon as he celebrates Mass in Morocco. He will adorn the pallium as the Bishop of Rome and Supreme Head of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

Furthermore if Archbishop Kaigama as Coadjutor Archbishop of Abuja celebrates Mass in Abuja he will not wear the pallium even as he wore one as the Metropolitan of Jos. From the date Archbishop Kaigama succeeds Cardinal Onaiyekan he will start wearing the pallium in Abuja and Cardinal Onaiyekan as Archbishop Emeritus will no longer wear the pallium. Archbishop Kaigama in compliance with Can. 437 §1 above will apply for a new pallium as Metropolitan of Abuja. He cannot use Cardinal Onaiyekan’s pallium and he will not use the one he brought from Jos. This is provided in Canon law as follows:

§3. A metropolitan needs a new pallium if he is transferred to another Metropolitan see

It is to be noted that only the Pope and Metropolitan Archbishops and their equivalent in the Eastern Rite wear the pallium. Diocesan Bishops and Archbishops who do not preside over a diocese including Papal Nuncios and Archbishops working in the Vatican are not vested with the pallium.

In the attached picture Pope Francis is wearing the pallium around his neck over his shoulders and he is vesting a Metropolitan Archbishop with one. Usually new Metropolitans travel to Rome to receive their palliums but Pope Francis is reforming the process to enable new Metropolitans to be vested with their palliums at their proper provinces so that many more of their faithful will partake at the Eucharistic celebration and witness such an important moment in the life of the Archbishop and the life of the Archdiocese.

I hope this helps throw some more light on a not so prominent but significant item on the liturgical dress of the Pope and Metropolitan Archbishops.

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