VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis Saturday conferred the Pallium on Western Oregon Archbishop Alexander Sample during a Mass inside St. Peter’s Basilica.
When Archbishop Sample’s name was called inside the 400-year-old basilica, applause broke out among his family and friends who traveled here to witness the historic ceremony.
Archbishop Sample said kneeling in front of the pope was "one of the most incredible feelings I have ever had in my life,” a moment of “profound communion” with the pope and with the universal church.
The pallium reminded him that he has been called to take up the Lord’s yoke, “a burden that is heavy in one sense, but light because the Lord gives us the strength to carry it.”
The two-inch-wide embroidered, white wool band that the pope placed on the archbishop’s shoulders signifies his faithfulness to Christ and the Holy Father. The special liturgical vestment is made from the wool of two lambs blessed each January in Rome on the feast of St. Agnes. The vestment originates from an ancient garment worn by Christians during Roman times to signify their fidelity to Jesus. The Pallium has been a symbol of an archbishop’s jurisdiction since the 6th century.
Thirty-four metropolitan archbishops appointed in the last year from around the world received the Pallium during the Mass celebrating the feasts of Sts. Peter and Paul, patrons of the church in Rome.
The thousands of worshippers included the archbishop’s sisters, Marti Sample and Barbara Krieber, and Sample family friends from Marquette, Mich., his last assignment before relocating to Portland. A delegation of Western Oregon Catholics, including some members of the archbishop’s cabinet staff, also attended.
Archbishops who receive the Pallium are metropolitan archbishops or senior bishops of an ecclesial province covering several dioceses. In Archbishop Sample’s case, he is metropolitan archbishop of Portland, which besides the Archdiocese of Portland, includes the dioceses of Baker, Boise, Helena and Great Falls, in Montana.
Pope Francis delivered his 20-minute homily, in which he returned to a theme he had spoken about several times in late June: the need to find ways to better demonstrate and make concrete the common responsibility all bishops, working with the pope, hold for the universal church.
The Second Vatican Council, he said, recognized that Jesus “established the apostles as a college or permanent assembly, at the head of which he placed Peter, chosen from their number.”
“The Synod of Bishops, in harmony with the primacy (of the pope) -- we must go forward on this path of synodality,” the pope said. “The pallium, while being a sign of communion with the bishop of Rome, with the universal church and with the Synod of Bishops, also commits each of you to being a servant of communion.”
The pope prayed for each of the new archbishops who received the Pallium, as well as the faithful in their archdioceses.
Prayers of the faithful were delivered in six different languages, reflecting the wide diversity of the believers present.
Greek Orthodox leaders from Constantinople were also at the liturgy.
During Communion, dozens of priests fanned out among the faithful in St. Peter's Basilica to distribute the hosts. Music during the Mass was provided by the Vatican choir.
When the Mass concluded, thousands sought to catch a glimpse of this much-loved pontiff who is generating new enthusiasm for Catholicism since his election to the papacy earlier this year.
He has a trip planned for Rio this summer to attend World Youth Day.
It took nearly an hour to empty the massive church, which took 100 years to build and was consecrated in 1626.
Afterwards, Archbishop Sample, his family and friends gathered for a reception and lunch at the nearby hilltop North American College, where many future U.S. priests receive their seminary training. The archbishop greeted well-wishers, and he posed for keepsake photographs.
Blessed John Paul reinstuted the annual tradition of bestowing the Pallium on new archbishops on June 29, feasts of Sts. Peter and Paul, patron saints of Rome and a holiday in Rome. Many shopkeepers and restaurateurs shutter their places of business for the day.
For the hundreds of thousands of tourists jammed into in the steamy Eternal City, however, the day offered a rare opportunity to attend Mass with the Holy Father inside the cavernous basilica, with its priceless artworks by Michaelangelo, Raphael and other great artists, capable of accommodating 25,000 worshippers.
Worshippers begin lining up for admission under the hot Roman sun several hours before the Mass got under way, watched over carefully by Swiss guardsmen, plain-clothed Vatican security officers and police from the City of Rome.
The archbishop arrived Monday in Rome with 43 pilgrimage friends from Marquette, Michigan, and Portland, including his two sisters, Barbara Krieber and Marti Sample.
"It has always been a dream of ours to travel, the three of us, together to Italy.Alex wanted to share the wonder and beauty of this country with us ever since he studied and lived here in the 1990's. To experience it through his eyes has definitely been a dream come true for us," said Krieber.
"Alex, in a sense, has almost been like a father figure to me since we lost our own father many years ago. He is always looking out for me and supporting me," said Marti Sample.
The pilgrims arrival was delayed because they sat in a US Airways Airbus 330 for two and a half hours in Philadelphia while technicians subbed out defective computer software. The archbishop sat in coach with everyone else. When asked why he did not upgrade to first class, he replied that Pope Francis would not have approved.
When the plane landed in Rome, the group boarded a highway bus for the trek north to Assisi to visit the hilltop town made famous by the work in the 1200s by Sts. Francis and Clare and their associates.
During a Mass before the tomb of St. Francis, Archbishop Sample said celebrating Mass there was the fulfillment of a 17 year dream.
The pilgrims spent two days in the City of Peace in the majestic Umbrian Valley, visiting chapels and churches built to honor the town's two most famous people.
One of the Marquette pilgrims is a 67-year-old woman who is recuperating from knee surgeries that spawned infections. This Yooper, as she described denizens of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, proved to the faint-hearted what indefatigable really means. She trudged up and down the hilly terrain, using her cane to steady herself, her face crimson with exertion and probably pain. She was one of the archbishop's parishioners in Marquette and misses him keenly.
In Rome, the group billeted in a hotel within walking distance of St. Peter's Square. They joined with Portland priests and seminarians studying at the Vatican for an early morning Mass Thursday in front of the tomb of St. Peter. They were joined, too, by Archbishop John Vlazny who is visiting friends in Rome.