Archbishop-elect Samuel J. Aquila of Denver said he was deeply thankful to be among the dozens of new archbishops to receive a pallium from Pope Benedict XVI in Rome on June 29.
“When I went up to receive the pallium I truly felt humbled thinking 'who am I to be receiving this great gift, this sign of unity with the Holy Father and to be receiving it from Benedict XVI,'” he told CNA moments after departing the papal ceremony at St. Peter’s basilica.
Archbishop-elect Aquila was one of 43 new metropolitan archbishops to receive the pallium from the Pope upon the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. The woven strip of white lamb’s wool symbolizes the authority given to an archbishop by the Roman Pontiff.
The 61-year-old will be installed as Archbishop of Denver at the city’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on July 18. After a decade as Bishop of Fargo, North Dakota, he will be returning to the archdiocese where he was ordained a priest in 1976.
He explained how upon receiving the pallium his heart “was just filled with joy and also deep awareness of the Father’s love” that had called him to serve the people of Denver.
He also drew inspiration from a nearby statue of Our Lady holding the Christ Child that sits to the left of the high altar in St. Peter’s basilica.
“Just knowing of her protection, knowing of her love for me, and seeing that and really entrusting things to her too my new diocese that I will be going to in July,” said Archbishop-elect Aquila.
Joining him for today’s ceremony was his predecessor in Denver, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia. This was, in fact, the second time he has received the pallium, the first coming on his appointment to Denver in 1997.
He told CNA that he found today’s occasion “easier than the first in terms of being relaxed and not being nervous.”
“So I was able to focus on praying for my people, my priests and all the issues we have in Philadelphia,” he explained, “so I carried them in my heart and in my mind and in my prayers today at Mass.”
The two other American clerics honored with the pallium today were Byzantine Archbishop William C. Skurla of Pittsburgh and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore who found himself caught up in conversation with Pope Benedict.
“The Holy Father remembered that Baltimore is the oldest archdiocese in the United States, without any prompting from me, and we spoke a little bit about the heritage of the Archdiocese of Baltimore which was very warm and very personal,” recalled Archbishop Lori.
He explained how his new pallium will be “a source of endless meditation” as it symbolizes “the solidarity, the communion of the Church in Baltimore and the Province of Baltimore with our Holy Father.”
He also views it as a reminder of “Christ the Good Shepherd who lays the sheep upon his shoulder and brings them to safety” but who also “became the lamb of sacrifice” and that “his yoke is easy and his burden is light.”