Rome, Italy, Jan 21, 2011 / 15:50 pm
After an unusual journey, a pair of lambs destined for great things were blessed by Pope Benedict XVI in a traditional ceremony at the Vatican on Jan. 21.
The soft, pure wool from the little lambs will be used to make a vestment, called a "pallium," which the Pope places on the shoulders of the world's newest metropolitan archbishops each summer.
The lambs have quite an adventure before they arrive in the Vatican.
Sister Hanna Pomnianowska of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth told the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano that the lambs come from a Trappist Monastery at Tre Fontane, just outside of Rome.
They are brought to the sisters the day before the ceremony, where they are the "joy" of the convent and the surrounding neighborhood. They are washed with soap to "bring out the shine" in their coats, blowdried, fed and generally "coddled" before the next day's festivities.
The sisters have had the responsibility since 1884, she said, but they carry on a tradition that was passed on to them by a neighboring convent before it closed.
The morning of the Feast of St. Agnes, the sisters adorn the two lambs with flowers, small roses and a mantle each, one white and one red. The initials S.A.V adorn the white one and stand for "St. Agnes Virgin," while S.A.M. is emblazoned on the red background for "St. Agnes Martyr."
At 9 a.m., a pair of representatives from the Basilica of St. John Lateran arrive to haul the lambs to the Basilica of St. Agnes Outside-the-walls in northern Rome.