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Covering the Vatican



Media coverage tends to focus on many of the same issues every time

bishops gather: priestly celibacy, divorce, Catholic politicians, abortion, arti-

ficial contraception and other life issues. Be careful, however, not to conflate

a couple of bishops’ mentions of these topics with any kind of referendum,

and don’t ignore the other subjects at hand: liturgical translations, missionary

work, social justice concerns, dwindling Christian populations in the Middle

East, secular culture, and much, much more.

The final propositions that the synod delivers to the pope are secret but

are often leaked to the press. At the close of the 2005 Synod on the Eucharist,

Pope Benedict had them published.

The pope usually writes his own concluding document, called a


apostolic exhortation

, several months later. During that time, a council made up

of synod members serves as a follow-up group that helps the pope prepare the

exhortation. A permanent Vatican synodal office organizes the assemblies.


Another event that might have you crossing the Atlantic is the presentation of

the pallium to your city’s archbishop. Each year on the Solemnity of Sts. Peter

and Paul (June 29), the pope places woolen bands called palliums around the

necks of Latin rite archbishops whom he has appointed over the previous 12

months to be heads of metropolitan sees. Palliums are liturgical vestments that

are worn over the chasuble at Mass.

Made from the wool of lambs blessed by the pope on Jan. 21, the feast of

St. Agnes, the circular neckpieces are decorated with six black crosses, with

two tails hanging in front and in back. The pallium represents the archbishop’s

authority over his ecclesiastical province and his unity with the pope, who

also wears a pallium, and the wool recalls Jesus’ words to Peter: “Feed my

lambs” (Jn 21:15).

An archbishop may wear the pallium, in accord with liturgical norms,

when celebrating Mass in any church in his ecclesiastical province, but he may

not wear it at liturgical celebrations outside his province.


A canonization ceremony is a popular event for pilgrims and in certain cases

can draw massive crowds, as with Padre Pio in 2002, when an estimated

300,000 thronged the Vatican.

The pope reads a decree proclaiming someone a saint during a Mass,

often in St. Peter’s Square but in many instances elsewhere in the world. The