Vatican City, Jun 30, 2014 / 09:01 am
After receiving the pallium from Pope Francis on Sunday's feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, Archbishop Leonard Blair expressed that the "beautiful" moment serves as a reminder of the basics of his ministry.
Referring to the "ancient tradition of the pallium which the Pope confers on metropolitan archbishops," Archbishop Blair explained to CNA June 29 that "in recent years it's been done on this feast of Saints Peter and Paul here in Rome."
"So it was a very beautiful, moving experience to be with archbishops from all over the world to receive the pallium."
The pallium is a white woolen garment that represents the traditional and peculiar sign of the metropolitan office, and is given annually to the new archbishops appointed during the year.
Archbishop Blair was one of the 24 new Metropolitian Archbishops who Pope Francis conferred the pallium to during June 29's Mass for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, and was the only American present.
In addition to the 24 who were there, three others were absent, and will officially be installed at a later date.
Speaking of the significance of receiving the pallium, Archbishop Blair explained that "it's an honor," and recalled reading through the prayer used for the blessing and conferral of the pallium during the ceremony ahead of the Mass.
"What it refers to is unity and communion, the bond of charity and strength to carry out responsibilities as an archbishop," he explained, so it represents "a sign of our communion with the Holy Father and with one another in the collage of bishops throughout the world."
Observing how everyone faces challenges no matter what their state in life, Archbishop Blair noted that "being an archbishop requires a little extra help from heaven, we might say."
"So this is a reminder that the Holy Father is with us in the exercise of our ministry, and we're with him as part of the collage of bishops and the Church Universal."
The archbishop explained that he was particularly moved by Pope Francis' homily in that he gave "a very beautiful reflection about the basics," stating that "I think that's one of the themes of his papacy, is that we have to get always to the basics of the Gospel message."
"He ended his homily somewhat dramatically with those words of Jesus to Saint Peter 'Follow me,'" the archbishop recalled, stating that "That's what's important, and we can't get distracted or bogged down by other things…I think that he communicates that very clearly and well."
Archbishop Blair then recounted how Pope Francis came to meet the archbishops before Mass began, explaining that he greeted each of them personally, and that afterward, "we had a picture together and he went around to shake hands once more, so that was very nice."
Explaining how this is not the first time he has met Pope Francis, the archbishop recalled how he was in Rome for a meeting at the time he received the call from the apostolic nuncio to the U.S. informing him of his appointment to the Hartford, Conn., diocese.
"The next day we had an audience with Pope Francis," he said, so "I took the occasion to thank him for his confidence in me in naming me to Hartford."
Archbishop Blair, 64, oversaw the diocese of Toledo, Ohio before his appointment to Hartford in October, where he replaced the 76-year-old Archbishop Mansell who had led the diocese since 2003 until his resignation after reaching the age of retirement.
He was born in Detroit in 1949 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1976 following the completion of his studies at the Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, as well as both the North American College and the Gregorian University in Rome.