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Newest American archbishop receives pallium in special Mass at Vatican

Pope Francis celebrates Mass on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, June 29, 2023. / Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 29, 2023 / 09:24 am (CNA).

Archbishop George Leo Thomas of the newly created Archdiocese of Las Vegas formally received his pallium, a vestment symbolizing his authority in the Church, from Pope Francis in a solemn Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica on Thursday.

Thomas, 73, received the pallium alongside 29 other new metropolitan archbishops on the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul.

During the Mass, the pope blessed the pallia that will soon be placed on the shoulders of the 32 archbishops appointed this year across the world.

Pope Francis celebrated Mass on the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, June 29, 2023, where he also blessed the pallia for new archbishops. Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA

In his homily, Francis called on the new archbishops to “be apostles like Peter and Paul” and to “be disciples in following and apostles in preaching.”  

“Brothers and sisters, we are celebrating Peter and Paul,” the pope said. “They answered that essential question in life — ‘Who is Jesus for me?’ — by following him as his disciples and by proclaiming the Gospel.”

“It is good for us to grow as a Church in the same way, by following the Lord, constantly and humbly seeking him out. It is good for us to become a Church that is also outgoing, finding joy not in the things of the world but in preaching the Gospel before the world and opening people’s hearts to the presence of God,” Francis added.

In concluding his homily, Francis instructed the archbishops to “bring the beauty of the Gospel everywhere, together with all the People of God.”

The Mass was also attended by about 60 Las Vegas Catholics and other family members and pilgrims.

Pope Francis celebrated Mass on the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, June 29, 2023, where he also blessed the pallia for new archbishops. Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA

What is the pallium? 

A white woolen band with six black silk crosses worn around the neck, the pallium is a symbol of an archbishop’s special share in the pope’s pastoral authority as well as his responsibility to shepherd his flock.

The pallium, which is also worn by the pope, further symbolizes the bond and unity between the pope and the archbishop. The pope’s pallium has red crosses instead of black.

Though traditionally archbishops used to be invested with the pallium by the pope in St. Peter’s, Francis changed that practice in 2015 so that the pallium is now placed on archbishops’ shoulders in their home archdioceses.

Thomas will be invested with the pallium by the apostolic nuncio to the U.S., Archbishop Christophe Pierre, in another special Mass on Oct. 2 at Guardian Angel Cathedral, the mother church of the Archdiocese of Las Vegas.

In attendance at that Mass will be the various other bishops under the authority of Thomas as metropolitan archbishop.

Pope Francis celebrated Mass on the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, June 29, 2023, where he also blessed the pallia for new archbishops. Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA

America’s newest archdiocese

In May, the pope elevated Las Vegas to the status of a metropolitan archdiocese, creating a new ecclesiastical province.

As archbishop, Thomas will oversee not only his archdiocese but will also bear responsibility for the other dioceses within his metropolitan region.

There are 35 archdioceses in the United States, including the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, and two Eastern Catholic archdioceses.

The Archdiocese of Las Vegas serves more than 620,000 Catholics and “hundreds of thousands of tourists,” according to the cathedral’s website.

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