.- Today Pope Benedict celebrated the feast of the martyr St. Agnes by blessing a group of lambs in the Urban VIII Chapel of the Vatican Apostolic Palace.
Every year on January 21, the Pope blesses a group of lambs which are traditionally less than a year old. The lambs are raised by the Trappist Fathers of the Abbey of Three Fountains in Rome. They are then sheared, and the wool is woven into palliums by the Sisters of St. Cecilia.
The palliums will be given to the new metropolitan archbishops on June 29, the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul. Each pallium is comprised of two hanging pieces, front and back. They are worn by the Pope and by the archbishops as a symbol of their apostolic authority and of the special bond between bishops and the Roman Pontiff.
The lambs themselves are a symbol of Purity. The lamb is also a symbol of St. Agnes, a young Roman virgin who dedicated herself to Christ. She chose the martyr’s death over breaking that vow of purity to God by marrying the governor’s son. She was between 12 and 13 years-old when she was executed for her refusal. Her body resides in the basilica named for her, which is located on Rome’s Via Nomentana.