On June 29, Anchorage Archbishop Paul Etienne will receive his pallium from the hands of Pope Francis at the Vatican.
The pallium, which can only be worn by the pope or a metropolitan archbishop, is a wool vestment that dates back to at least the fifth century. Wearing of the pallium symbolizes a bishop’s authority as well as his unity with the Holy See.
The pallium is a circular band about two inches wide that is worn around the neck and shoulders. It has two pendants, one hanging down in front and one behind. The remainder is made of white wool partly supplied by two lambs given annually to the pope.
Archbishop Etienne will travel to Rome in June to receive his pallium, but it will not be officially conferred until September 8, when the apostolic nuncio, or papal representative to the United States, visits Anchorage for the formal ceremony.
In the past, the pope conferred the palliums at the Vatican. In 2015, however, Pope Francis changed the ceremony.
According to a report from Catholic News Agency, the change was made in order to better demonstrate to the faithful the unity between local churches and the pope in Rome.
“By having the official imposition ceremony in the archbishop’s home diocese, more faithful and bishops in dioceses under the archbishop’s jurisdiction will be able to attend the event, “which is so meaningful to them,” Mons. Guido Marini, Papal Master of Ceremonies, explained in 2015.
As in past years, the pope will bestow the pallium on June 29, the feast day of Saints Peter and Paul in the Catholic Church. Holding the ceremony on this day stresses that the pallium is a sign of communion and unity between the archbishops and the See of Peter.
The “metropolitan” bishop or archbishop is the bishop of the primary city within a certain territorial region of the Catholic Church. While the bishops in Juneau and Fairbanks have full pastoral authority over their dioceses, and answer directly to the pope, Archbishop Etienne, as a metropolitan archbishop, has a special place of honor and leadership among the bishops of Alaska.