Pope Benedict XVI has given a pallium to 38 new archbishops from around the world, including Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark and Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham.
Placing the woollen band around their shoulders, Pope Benedict told them it was a Gospel “yoke” – not a heavy burden, he said, but a sign that by remaining united with the Church in faith they would have the strength to face whatever challenges come their way.
The Pope said: “Communion with Peter and his successors, in fact, is the guarantee of freedom for the pastors of the Church and for the communities entrusted to them.”
When Archbishop Longley received the pallium he told the Holy Father that he looked forward to welcoming him in his diocese for the beatification of Cardinal Newman. “Yes, I’m very much looking forward to it,” the Pope replied.
The archbishops came from 26 countries, including Vietnam. The Pope gave them the woollen pallium as a sign of their sharing authority with him over the faithful in their archdioceses.
In his homily the Pope said the Church had faced persecution throughout history, but it suffers greater damage “from that which pollutes the faith and Christian life of its members and its communities, attacking the integrity of the mystical body, weakening its capacity for prophecy and witness, tarnishing the beauty of its face”.
Jesus promised the Church would be free – not just from physical destruction, but also from spiritual defeat by the Devil, he said.
Unity with the Church and with the Pope, he said, guarantees that “the local Churches and bishops’ conferences have freedom in relation to local, national or international powers, which can, in some cases, block the Church’s mission”.
But he said that, even more importantly, communion with the Pope “is the guarantee of freedom in the sense of full adhesion to the truth, to the authentic tradition, so that the people of God are preserved from errors concerning faith and morals”.
The pallium is the “yoke” Jesus spoke about, he said. It does not weigh down the person carrying it, but supports him in his unity with the rest of the Church, the Pope added.
Giving and receiving the woollen band is “a gesture of communion” with the Church whether it is threatened with “political interference or other harsh trials”, he said.