For metropolitan archbishops, only

You may have heard or read that Archbishop Dolan left yesterday for Rome, where he will on Monday (June 29) receive a pallium.

A pallium?

It is a wool stole that goes around an archbishop’s neck.

Every archbishop named in the past year to head an archdiocese will get one.

The pallium represents Dolan’s authority over the Archdiocese of New York and the other dioceses of New York state. See, he’s a metropolitan archbishop.

The pope wears a pallium, too. He has authority over a larger jurisdiction.

Church historian Christopher Bellitto explained in his book “101 Questions and Answers on Popes and the Papacy:”


A  pallium is a circular piece of white wool about three inches wide marked by six black silk crosses, four of which are decorated with pins, with two slips of wool a bit over a foot long hanging down the front and back. A metropolitan archbishop’s pallium symbolizes his jurisdiction over a  geographic area, while the pope’s pallium represents the universal jurisdiction as Peter’s successor that is his alone. Pope Benedict XVI wears an elaborate form of the pallium: a version larger and longer than the usual one that looks like a stole tossed over the left shoulder, with red crosses instead of black. This style was used in the ancient church: mosaics depict early bishops wearing such a pallium, although it often looks like the decoration on their vestment, instead.


By the way, I think it’s safe to say that most media coverage of Dolan so far has been quite positive, if not enthusiastic. He’s a tremendously likeable fellow and there is, to be honest, a great sense of relief after a decade of no media access to Cardinal Egan.

But the Archdiocese has to be especially thrilled by some recent columns by the Daily News’ Joanne Molloy, who is absolutely fawning in her coverage of the New Boss.

She has a column today that is datelined “EN ROUTE TO VATICAN CITY,” which appears to mean that she’s going on the trip to Rome. (Yeah, I’m jealous.)

She writes:


He is charged with helping not only Catholics but all poor New Yorkers as head of the local branch of Catholic Charities, which wants to halve America’s poverty rate in 10 years.

But, for now, it was time to leave the world’s problems behind and take to the plane.

“I’m so excited,” said Suzie Palmgren of upstate Bearsville as she boarded the Alitalia flight that somehow seemed safer with Dolan on board.

“This is the first time I’ve left my husband and kids behind in 19 years.”

Questions and answers on a very old office

I know you have questions about the papacy.

Who doesn’t.

bellitto-2007-headshot.jpgNow you can have answers, as well. Church historian Christopher M. Bellitto has just published “101 Questions & Answers on Popes and the Papacy” (Paulist Press), which I’ve been reading for the past few days.

Bellitto, who is on the faculty at Kean University in Union, N.J., has been a big help to me over the years. He’s tremendously knowledgeable about church history and has the rare ability to relate the past to the present in such a way that everything makes sense.

What more can a simple reporter ask for.

Bellitto covers a lot of ground in his new book, starting from the top: Where does the word pope come from?

978-0-8091-4516-4.jpgI want to cite a question, oddly enough, from the end of the book. Question 101. It’s the epilogue question, but Bellitto’s answer could be a good starting point or ending point. He says a lot in one, fat paragraph, addressing a question that I think a lot of Catholics have wondered about:

Q: The story of the papacy is inspiring, but there have been lots of flawed popes. Do you think people might have their faith weakened or lose heart by studying the entire picture of the papacy?

A: For years, I’ve told my students, readers and public audiences a simple fact: if you want to save your faith, study church history. Given all that’s happened, the Holy Spirit must be in charge. I acknowledge here that I’m speaking more as a practicing Catholic than as a church historian, but even secular historians I know often say that a higher authority must be in charge because it always seems that when the church is in trouble, someone, usually someone unexpected, steps forward to handle the crisis in an innovative way. I’ve heard many people say that the very facts of the church’s survival, renewal, and even flourishing must be proof that she is of divine origin and receiving heavenly help, because the papacy has not collapsed under the weight of human frailty. These facts are a reminder that we must always view the story of the papacy as operating, at the same time, in both the city of God as well as in the city of mankind.

(From 101 Questions on Popes and the Papacy by Christopher M. Bellitto; published by the Paulist Press and reprinted with permission of the publisher. More information on the book can be found HERE.)