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ROME — The early summer sun dawned bright. The usually busy streets of Rome were surprisingly quiet, quieter even than the previous Sunday morning. It was a holy day that was also a holiday, Rome’s patronal feast day, June 29, the celebration of the great pillars of the city — Peter and Paul.
As the day unfolded the temperature rose and the city began to awaken, it seemed as if the entire city had been left for the visitors. Among the thousands in Italy and Rome that day were hundreds who had come on pilgrimage, not a few with their own archbishops who in the evening of this day would receive their pallium from the Holy Father. Groups from Boston, Hartford, Philadelphia and St. Louis came respectively with Archbishops O’Malley and Mansell, Cardinal Rigali and Archbishop Burke.
The square in front of St. Peter’s started filling with those attending the Mass with the Holy Father. The faithful gathered in their sections and with their groups, Americans blended with Germans, French with Jamaicans, Brazilians with Bahamians, Taiwanese with Italian; the universal Church was evident in this gathering. When the Holy Father exited the basilica he was accompanied by Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople. The Mass was to be different for two reasons: the virtual concelebration of the Liturgy of the Word by the pope and patriarch, and the blessing and bestowal of the pallium on the 44 new metropolitan archbishops present.
Forty years ago, the predecessors of the patriarch and the pope, Athenagoras and Paul VI, met in Jerusalem. From that time forward small but sure steps forward on the road to unity between these two churches: Rome and Constantinople have been taken. Now John Paul II and Bartholomew were presiding together over the word of God on the particularly Roman feast of Peter and Paul. Each listened to the Word of God proclaimed, each heard the Gospel chanted in Greek and Latin, together they blessed the assembly with each other’s Book of the Gospels and each one preached. Together they recited the Nicene Creed in Greek “according to the liturgical use of the Byzantine Churches.” The warmth of the day seemed reflected in the fraternal embrace and homilies of the Holy Father and Ecumenical Patriarch.
The Mass continued then with the presentation of the metropolitans present, as each name was read cheers rose from the crowd. The Africans were the loudest if not the most numerous; the Brazilians, who had 10 new archbishops present, had prized seats; the Americans showed great unity as all the American pilgrims saluted each of the four U.S. archbishops. When each had been called the crowd cheered for all of them. The deacons presented the new pallia to the Holy Father who blessed them and then following a promise of fidelity to the Holy Father, the pope pronounced the words of imposition and each new archbishop approached to receive this ancient symbol of unity with the Holy Father.
The Mass continued with Archbishop O’Malley and the other new archbishops, each in a blood red chasuble, concele-brating with the pope. The Mass concluded with the joint blessing of the assembled crowd by both the pope and the patriarch.
Over the course of the following days there were receptions and gatherings of various groups around the city. The Pontifical North American College on the Janiculum Hill overlooking Vatican City was host for at least one event for each of the new American archbishops. Visits to Rome’s other basilicas and churches, as well as ancient sites, and to any number of the city’s trattoria, ristorante, café or gelateria rounded out the pilgrimages.