At a Mass during the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, Pope Francis gave a pallium to the 34 men who were made archbishops in the last year, highlighting their fidelity to Rome and to the papacy.

"May you see in this Pallium a symbol of unity and a sign of communion with the Apostolic See," Pope Francis told the archbishops June 29.

"May it be a bond of charity and a source of strength, so that on the day of the coming and revelation of our great God and the chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ, you may obtain, together with the flock entrusted to you, the robe of immortality and glory."

The pallium is a white wool vestment, emblazoned with six black silk crosses. Dating back to at least the fifth century, the wearing of the pallium by metropolitan archbishops symbolizes authority as well as unity with the Holy See.

Of the 34 recipients of the pallium, four were Americans: Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco; Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin of Indianapolis; Archbishop Alexander K. Sample of Portland; and Archbishop Michael O. Jackels of Dubuque, Iowa.

A pallium has also been sent to Archbishop Francois Xavier Le Vang Hong, of Hue in Vietnam, who was unable to attend the Mass at St. Peter's Basilica.

CNA spoke to the U.S. archbishops at the North American College where they gathered after the Mass to greet family, friends and members of their local archdioceses that had traveled with them to Rome.  

"I'm literally on cloud nine," said Archbishop Sample. "It was just incredible."

"The experience from receiving this incredible gift from the Holy Father, the pallium, this sign of my communion with him and with the universal Church, is an overwhelming experience," he said in the courtyard of the college.

The archbishop recalled that "it was a surreal moment" when the procession began and the choir began singing the "Tu es Petrus" (You are Peter).

"I just got the chills realizing I was processing into Saint Peter's Basilica with the successor of Saint Peter," Archbishop Sample added.   

Archbishop Cordileone called the ceremony a "moving experience," adding that it was "hard to believe that it was happening to me."

"I was waiting for Pope Francis to tell me 'pax tecum' (peace be with you) and if he said it, I didn't hear him but he was smiling at me so I thought he was waiting for me to say something," said the archbishop of San Francisco.

"So I thanked him for his service to the Church and he mentioned San Francisco because before the Mass I introduced myself as being from the archdiocese which bears his name and he remembered that," he said.

Archbishop Cordileone said he then invited the Pope to visit San Francisco, that he seemed willing to do so and that it would be "a great blessing to receive him in the archdiocese that bears his name."

The archbishop told how before the Mass he had been reflecting with Archbishop Sample on when he was a seminarian and on his uncertainty of being a good priest.

"I never imagined this state would arrive in my life but it shows how God takes care of us when we try to do his will as best we can," he said, smiling.

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin said he felt "a little dazed."

"It was an emotional experience to be there and to be with my people, about a hundred, that came from Indianapolis," he said, adding that "the pallium is a sign of my responsibility to them."

Archbishop Tobin believes the biggest challenge people currently face in his archdiocese is proclaiming the faith "in a credible way and in a language that people understand."

The feast day of Saints Peter and Paul is one of the two days of the year in which the ancient bronze statue of St. Peter in the Basilica is dressed with a red silk cope and crowned with the triple tiara.

Pope Francis told the archbishops during the Mass "faith in Christ is the light of our life as Christians."

"To confess the Lord by letting oneself be taught by God, to be consumed by love for Christ and his Gospel, to be servants of unity," he said.

"These, dear brother bishops, are the tasks which the holy apostles Peter and Paul entrust to each of us, so that they can be lived by every Christian."

The palliums given to the archbishops Saturday were made from the wool of lambs who had been blessed by Benedict XVI on Jan. 21, marking the feast of St. Agnes.

St. Agnes, whose name means "lamb" in Latin, was a Roman virgin-martyr who at the tender age of 12 gave up her life for the sake of Christ and her consecrated virginity.

Since she is mentioned in the Roman Canon, her association with the pallium is an important symbol of unity with the successor of St. Peter.

The lambs were cared for by Benedictine nuns, who sheared them on Holy Thursday, and then wove the palliums. Since being made, they have rested in an urn at St. Peter's tomb, underneath the altar of his basilica.