The Catholic University of America

June 30, 2009

CUA Alums and Trustees Receive Pallium from Pope Benedict XVI

Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit receives the pallium from the Holy Father.

Pope Benedict XVI conferred the pallium upon five U.S. archbishops during a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica on Monday, June 29, the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul. Three of the five archbishops - Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis, Timothy M. Dolan of New York and Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit - are alumni of The Catholic University of America and two of the five - archbishops Dolan and Vigneron - are currently members of the university's Board of Trustees. Archbishop Vigneron was elected chairman of the board in June of this year.

The pallium - an ecclesiastical vestment of ancient origin made of lambs' wool and adorned with six black crosses - is worn around the neck and symbolizes the ministry of a metropolitan archbishop and his special relationship to the Pope. Its use is reserved to those members of the hierarchy who preside over an archdiocese and, in recent years, has been conferred at a special ceremony by the Pope in Rome.

"CUA is frequently referred to as 'the bishops' university' because it was founded by them and continues to operate under their sponsorship, one of a kind among Catholic institutions in this country," observed Very Rev. David M. O'Connell, C.M., CUA's president. "In another sense," he noted, "the fact that hundreds of U.S. bishops and others all around the world received their seminary or graduate education here adds another level of meaning to that phrase. In this 'Year for Priests,' the university takes special pride in its historic role within the Church."

During his homily at this year's conferral Mass, Pope Benedict remarked that those who receive the pallium must be "true Shepherds."

"To shepherd the flock means to be careful that the sheep find the right nourishment … We need the experience of faith, a living relationship with Jesus Christ. Faith must not remain a theory; it must be lived," he said.

Pope Benedict told the archbishops that, like Jesus, they are called to carry the lost sheep around their shoulders - the symbolism of the pallium - and to bring them back to safety. The lost sheep are not just members of the Catholic Church who may have lost their way, but are all of humanity, he said.

The five American recipients of the pallium were among 34 archbishops from all over the world who shared this honor. They all were accompanied by hundreds of pilgrims from their native archdioceses who came to witness and celebrate the occasion. CUA's dean of the School of Theology and Religious Studies, Monsignor Kevin Irwin - a priest of Archbishop Dolan's Archdiocese of New York - was among the pilgrims present.