The Pallium or Pall (derived from the Roman pallium or palla, a woollen cloak) is an ecclesiastical vestment in the Roman Catholic Church, originally peculiar to the Pope, but for many centuries bestowed by him on metropolitans and primates as a symbol of the jurisdiction delegated to them by the Holy See.
In origin the pallium and the omophorion are the same vestment. The omophorion is a wide band of cloth, much larger than the modern pallium, worn by all Eastern Orthodox bishops and Eastern Catholic bishops of the Byzantine Rite. The theory that explains its origin in connection with the figure of the Good Shepherd carrying the lamb on his shoulders, so common in early Christian art, is obviously an explanation a posteriori. The ceremonial connected with the preparation of the pallium and its bestowal upon the Pope at his coronation, however, suggests some such symbolism. The lambs whose wool is destined for the making of the pallia are solemnly presented at the altar by the nuns of the convent of Saint Agnes.
The awarding of the pallium became controversial in the Middle Ages, because popes charged a fee from those receiving them, earning hundreds of millions of gold florins for the papacy and bringing the award of the pallium into disrepute. This process was condemned by the Council of Basle in 1432, which referred to it as "the most usurious contrivance ever invented by the papacy. The fee was later abandoned amid charges of simony.
For his formal inauguration Pope Benedict XVI adopted an earlier form of the pallium, from a period when it and the omophorion were virtually identical. It is wider than the modern pallium although not as wide as the modern omophorion, made of wool with black silk ends, and decorated with five red crosses, three of which are pierced with pins, symbolic of Christ's five wounds and the three nails. Only the Papal pallium was to take this distinctive form. Beginning with the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul (June 29, 2008) Benedict XVI reverted to a form similar to that worn by his recent predecessors, albeit in a larger and longer cut and with red crosses, therefore remaining distinct from pallia worn by metropolitans.
At present only the Pope and metropolitan archbishops wear the pallium, and a metropolitan has to receive the pallium before exercising his office in his ecclesiastical province, even if he was previously metropolitan elsewhere. No other bishops, even non-metropolitan archbishops or retired metropolitans, are allowed to wear the pallium unless they have special permission. For example, Angelo Cardinal Sodano, the newly elected Dean of the College of Cardinals, received the privilege of wearing the pallium for the suburbicarian diocese of Ostia on 29 June 2005.
The use of the pallium among metropolitans did not become general until the ninth century, when the obligation was laid upon all Western metropolitans of forwarding a petition for the pallium accompanied by a solemn profession of faith, all consecrations being forbidden them before the reception of the pallium. The object of this rule was to bring the metropolitans into more intimate connection with the seat of unity and the source of all metropolitan prerogatives, the Holy See, to counteract the aspirations of various autonomy-seeking metropolitans, which were incompatible with the Roman understanding of the church, and to counteract the disharmony arising therefrom: the rule was intended, not to kill, but to revivify metropolitan jurisdiction. The oath of allegiance which the recipient of the pallium takes today originated, apparently, in the eleventh century. It is met with during the reign of Paschal II (1099–118), and replaced the profession of faith. It is certain that a tribute was paid for the reception of the pallium as early as the sixth century. This was abrogated by Pope Gregory I in the Roman Synod of 595, but was reintroduced later as partial maintenance of the Holy See. These pallium contributions have often been, since the Middle Ages, the subject of embittered controversies.
There is a decided difference between the form of the modern pallium and that used in early Christian times, as portrayed in the Ravenna mosaics. The pallium of the sixth century was a long, moderately wide, white band of wool, ornamented at its extremity with a black or red cross, and finished off with tassels; it was draped around the neck, shoulders, and breast in such a manner that it formed a V in front, and the ends hung down from the left shoulder, one in front and one behind.
In the eighth century it became customary to let the ends fall down, one in the middle of the breast and the other in the middle of the back, and to fasten them there with pins, the pallium thus becoming Y-shaped. A further development took place during the ninth century (according to pictorial representations, at first outside of Rome where ancient traditions were not maintained so strictly): the band, which had hitherto been kept in place by the pins, was sewn Y-shaped, without, however, being cut.
The present circular form originated in the tenth or eleventh century. Two excellent early examples of this form, belonging respectively to Archbishop St. Heribert (1021) and Archbishop St. Anno (d. 1075), are preserved in Siegburg, Archdiocese of Cologne. The two vertical bands of the circular pallium were very long until the fifteenth century, but were later repeatedly shortened until they now have a length of only about twelve inches. At first the only decorations on the pallium were two crosses near the extremities. This is proved by the mosaics at Ravenna and Rome. It appears that the ornamentation of the pallium with a greater number of crosses did not become customary until the ninth century, when small crosses were sewn on the pallium, especially over the shoulders. There was, however, during the Middle Ages no definite rule regulating the number of crosses, nor was there any precept determining their colour. They were generally dark, but sometimes red. The pins, which at first served to keep the pallium in place, were retained as ornaments even after the pallium was sewn in the proper shape, although they no longer had any practical object. That the insertion of small leaden weights in the vertical ends of the pallium was usual as early as the thirteenth century is proved by the discovery in 1605 of the pallium enveloping the body of Boniface VIII, and by the fragments of the pallium found in the tomb of Clement IV.
The use of the pallium is reserved to the pope and archbishops who are metropolitans, but the latter may not use it until it is conferred upon them by the pope, normally at the celebration of the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul in June. The pallium is also conferred upon the Latin Rite Patriarch of Jerusalem. Previous traditions that allowed some other bishops to use the pallium were ended by Pope Paul VI in a motu proprio in 1978. A metropolitan archbishop may wear his pallium as a mark of his jurisdiction not only in his own archdiocese but anywhere in his ecclesiastical province whenever he celebrates Mass (Canon 437, Code of Canon Law, 1983).
Although the pallium is now reserved, by law and liturgical norms, to metropolitans, a single standing exception has seemed to become customary: Pope John Paul II conferred a pallium on then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger when Ratzinger became dean of the College of Cardinals and therefore also Cardinal Bishop of Ostia, a purely honorary title and one without an archbishopric or metropolitanate attached. When Ratzinger was elected Pope Benedict XVI, he continued that exception without comment by conferring the pallium on Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the new dean.
Worn by the pope, the pallium symbolizes the plenitudo pontificalis officii (i.e., the "plenitude of pontifical office"); worn by archbishops, it typifies their participation in the supreme pastoral power of the pope, who concedes it to them for their proper church provinces. An archbishop who has not received the pallium may therefore not exercise any of his functions as metropolitan, nor any metropolitan prerogatives whatever. Similarly, after his resignation, he may not use the pallium; should he be transferred to another archdiocese, he must again petition the Holy Father for a new pallium. The new pallia are solemnly blessed after the Second Vespers on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, and are then kept in a special silver-gilt casket near the Confessio Petri (tomb of St. Peter) until required. The pallium was formerly conferred in Rome by a cardinal deacon, and outside of Rome by a bishop; in both cases the ceremony took place after the celebration of Mass and the administration of an oath. Since the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), the liturgy for the conferral of the pallium as it appears in the liturgical books is to take place at the beginning of the Mass in which the archbishop takes possession of his see; however, the practice of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI has actually been to summon all new archbishops to Rome to receive the pallium directly from the hands of the pope on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul.