Archbishop Etienne receives pallium, symbol of unity and a shepherd’s love

  • Written by Northwest Catholic
  • Published in Local
Archbishop Paul D. Etienne shares a light moment after receiving his pallium, the insignia of a metropolitan archbishop, from Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, during a July 16 Mass at St. James Cathedral. Photo: Stephen Brashear Archbishop Paul D. Etienne shares a light moment after receiving his pallium, the insignia of a metropolitan archbishop, from Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, during a July 16 Mass at St. James Cathedral. Photo: Stephen Brashear

 SEATTLE – In the first major celebration at St. James Cathedral since COVID-19 restrictions began in March, Archbishop Paul D. Etienne received his pallium — the insignia of a metropolitan archbishop — from the papal nuncio during a July 16 Mass.

“I can’t tell you what a joy it brings to my heart to see people in the pews again,” Archbishop Etienne said to applause from the clergy, women religious, seminarians and laypeople who were present — wearing masks and spaced throughout the cathedral to observe the required physical distancing.

“I am very grateful for each of you being here with us to represent this local church on such a significant moment of the life of the church,” the archbishop said.

As Archbishop Etienne knelt, the pallium — a white band made of lamb’s wool and adorned with six black crosses — was placed on his shoulders by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States (Pope Francis’ official representative in this country).

“May this pallium be a symbol of unity and a sign of your communion with the Apostolic See, a bond of love, and an incentive to courage,” Archbishop Pierre prayed over Archbishop Etienne.

The pallium is also “‘a sign of the unity between the sheep and the shepherd who, like Jesus, carries the sheep on his shoulders, so as never to be separated from it,’” Archbishop Pierre said in his homily, quoting from Pope Francis’ sermon on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, when the pallium was among those blessed by the pope in Rome.

In these tumultuous times, the nuncio said, “the archdiocese and the surrounding dioceses need a prophetic witness that offers Good News rather than negativity; that offers hope as a remedy for despair; that promises justice to those who are oppressed, whether by poverty due to this pandemic, or whether by racial injustice. The people need to be free from fear and at liberty to pursue justice and peace.”

“In short, they need a shepherd in their midst who bears the presence of Christ, the Good Shepherd,” he said.

Archbishop Paul D. Etienne processes out of St. James Cathedral July 16 after receiving his pallium during a special investiture Mass. Photo: Stephen Brashear

Three years ago, Archbishop Pierre presented Archbishop Etienne with a pallium when he became archbishop of Anchorage, Alaska. When he was named coadjutor archbishop of Seattle in April 2019, “I had to lay my pallium from Anchorage aside and I haven’t worn a pallium since then,” Archbishop Etienne told those gathered.

“There was a real sadness in that,” the archbishop said, “not just because it’s a fancy piece of vesture, but because of the symbolism of which Archbishop Pierre spoke so beautifully.”

Archbishop Etienne explained that his practice is to wear his pallium every time he celebrates the Eucharist, not just on special occasions.

“Every time I place the pallium upon myself … it’s all of you as a pastor I carry in my heart and in my prayer, and most especially who I take with me to this altar every day,” he said. “And I want you to know that.”

To all those present, and all those watching on livestream, Archbishop Etienne said, “You help me bear this yoke by your faith and by the way we put that faith into concrete action and love and charity to the people of God, to the people that Jesus sends us to.”

“We take the yoke of Jesus upon us and learn from him how to be meek and humble of heart.”

Watch the video of Archbishop Etienne’s Pallium Mass on Vimeo or Facebook.


Pallium basics

  • The pallium is a white band made of lamb’s wool. It is adorned with six black crosses. The pallium is worn over the chasuble and is the insignia of a metropolitan archbishop.
  • The wool used in the making of the pallium has its own rich tradition. Every year, on the feast of St Agnes, two lambs are brought from Tre Fontane, the site of St Paul’s martyrdom, to the Basilica of St Agnes on the Via Nomentana in Rome. The lambs are presented to the Pope, then they remain in the care of the Sisters who reside at the Basilica of St Cecilia in Trastevere. Just before Easter, these lambs are shorn and their wool is used to make the pallia for newly-appointed Archbishops.
  • The pallia for the new Archbishops around the world are blessed by Pope Francis on the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, after resting overnight near the tomb of St. Peter. The pallium is rich in meaning. It suggests the gentle yoke of Christ, and it symbolizes an archbishop's unity with the pope and his authority and responsibility to care for the flock the pope entrusted to him.
  • For many years, it has been the custom for new Archbishops to travel to Rome to receive the pallium from the Holy Father. In 2015, Pope Francis restored an older tradition, whereby the pallium is conferred by the Apostolic Nuncio in the Archbishop’s own cathedral, so that the local Church may also participate in this significant moment.

Source: St. James Cathedral Liturgy Office