Good Steward Newsletter – June 2009 (special edition)
Who Touched Me? Archbishops Receive the Pallium, a Sign of Unity, from Pope Benedict XVI
The following Good Steward Newsletter was submitted from Rome on June 29, 2009.
On Sunday June 28, the Gospel reading for the day was the story of the woman who was afflicted with a disease that many doctors could not cure (Mk. 5:25-34). “If I but touch his clothes,” the woman said to herself, “I shall be cured.” St. Mark tells us that this woman was just one of hundreds of people who jostled Jesus in an attempt to get close to him. But when she managed to force her way through the crowd, and succeeded in making physical contact with him, “Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked: Who touched me?” The disciples were incredulous. How could he possibly expect an answer to that question with so many people pushing, shoving and touching him?
As happens so often in the Gospels, healing is connected to faith. Thus, when the woman identifies herself, and tells Jesus she has been cured as the result of touching him, Jesus says to the woman, to his disciples and to us: “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”
This year on June 28, the day before the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, during Solemn Vespers at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, Pope Benedict XVI formally concluded the Year of St. Paul. Pilgrims from dioceses all over the world were in Rome to witness the conferral of the “pallium,” an ancient sign of unity, on 34 newly-appointed archbishops from various regions of the world. Although all of the pilgrims had tickets for the event, there were long lines of people waiting to be admitted to the Basilica, and when they finally entered the ancient church, there were more people than there were seats to accommodate them. The result was lots of pushing, shoving and touching!
“Who touched me?” Anyone asking that question at St. Paul’s Basilica that evening, or in St. Peter’s Basilica the next morning, would receive the same answer that the disciples gave Jesus. Even the new archbishops experienced the press of the crowd and the heat and confusion of thousands of people eager to get as close as possible to the pope and to them. But on this occasion, although the question is the same, the answer would be different because the roles were reversed. As Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis told the pilgrims who accompanied him to Rome from Saginaw, Sioux Falls and St. Louis, on this solemn occasion the person doing the touching was Jesus himself. “Wherever two or three are gathered,” the archbishop said, “and wherever thousands (or millions) of people come together to worship the Lord with the Holy Father and his brother bishops, Jesus is present. He is not present in a remote or passive way. He reaches out to us—especially in the Eucharist and in the prayer of the Church.”
The Lord touches us and power goes out from him once again. The power of his touch reaches out to heal us, to comfort us, to challenge us, to forgive us and to give us hope. If our faith is strong enough, we can feel his palpable presence touching our hearts, our minds and our bodies with the power of his love.
Among the 34 archbishops who received the pallium from the Holy Father were 5 Americans: Gregory Aymond of New Orleans, Robert Carlson of St. Louis, Timothy Dolan of New York, George Lucas of Omaha and Allen Vigneron of Detroit. As the readings and prayers of the feast day Mass made clear, these new archbishops are called to be a sign of unity within their new archdioceses, but also among the provinces where each now serves as “Metropolitan.” (Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein is the Metropolitan of the Indianapolis Province which includes the five dioceses in Indiana.)
Every bishop is called to promote unity, but an archbishop who serves as “metropolitan” receives a distinctive call to be a sign of unity over and above his ordinary duties as the bishop of a diocese. According to Pope Benedict, every bishop is called to be a sign of unity. In his diocese, the bishop’s ministry unites him with the entire Catholic community in each individual parish. Beyond his diocese, the bishop joins his diocese (the local church) with the Church of Rome and with all the other dioceses throughout the world. Most Catholics don’t realize how much of their bishop’s time and attention has to be to matters that concern the needs of the Church beyond diocesan boundaries but this is a critically important part of the bishop’s ministry.
As Archbishop Carlson says, “The role of Metropolitan is a charism. It is a gift that exists for the sake of pastoral unity among neighboring dioceses and with the Bishop of Rome.” The archbishop adds that “Christ is the real source of our unity, not the bishop. But joining others to Christ in love and in truth is what the ministry of a bishop is all about.”
When each of the 34 archbishops received his pallium, the sign of his new role as a metropolitan archbishop, Pope Benedict XVI invited him to reflect prayerfully on the meaning of this ancient symbol. “The Pallium is worn by archbishops as a symbol of their hierarchical communion with the Successor of Peter in the governance of God’s People,” the pope said. The pallium is kind of scarf that is worn over the archbishop’s chasuble (his liturgical garment). As Pope Benedict describes it, “It is made of sheepswool as a symbol of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world and the Good Shepherd who keeps vigilant watch over his beloved flock.” The pallium is also said to be a symbolic yoke or burden placed over the archbishop’s shoulders as a reminder that he is called to unite others to Christ whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light.
Only the pope and metropolitan archbishops wear the pallium because they alone have a formal responsibility to promote the Church’s unity beyond diocesan boundaries. According to the Holy Father, “This vestment reminds bishops, as vicars of Christ in their local Churches, that they are called to be shepherds after the Heart of Jesus.” The Lord invites all his disciples to be one with him – as he is one with his Father and the Holy Spirit.
As the Holy Father placed the pallium on the shoulders of each new archbishop, he imposed on them the burden of being a source of unity, and of hope, in the provinces they serve and in a global, worldwide Church that is faced with many divisions and is frequently tempted to despair. But the pope, as Vicar of Christ, also touched them with the power of Jesus, and he assured them that, if they have faith enough to preach the Gospel boldly and with love, the Lord will strengthen them with his courage and sustain them with his love.
Promoting unity in diversity. Joining others to Christ in love and in truth. Being a model of wisdom and grace with humility, humor and deep pastoral sensitivity to the needs of their people. These are the charisms that have been given to the 34 new archbishops, under the symbol of the pallium, to help them carry out their distinctive ministry as a sign of unity in his their archdioceses, in the provinces they serve, and in the Universal Church. May the grace of Christ touch their hearts and sustain them in this apostolic ministry for many years to come!
|Copyright © 2009, Daniel Conway
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