(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday celebrated the feast of St. Agnes in the Vatican with the centuries-old rite of the blessing of the lambs.
Listen to Devin Watkins' report:
The two lambs blessed by Pope Francis in the Urban VIII Chapel are traditionally less than a year old. Come summer those lambs will be shorn and their wool used to make the Pallium.
The Pallium are white wool stoles, decorated with six black crosses worn by Metropolitan Archbishops around their necks as a symbol of their authority and unity with the Pope.
Agnes means “lamb” in Latin. St. Agnes, a martyr of the early 4th century known for her consecrated virginity, was killed as a young girl for refusing to worship pagan gods. She is buried in the Basilica named for her, located on Rome’s Via Nomentana.
To symbolize St. Agnes’ purity, when being blessed by the Pope, one of the lambs wears a crown of white flowers, while the other wears a red floral wreath to recall her faithful witness even unto death.
Once woven, the Palliums are guarded in an urn at the tomb of St. Peter until the Pope blesses them on June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.
Last year, Pope Francis modified the Pallium Investiture Ceremony, allowing for archbishops to receive the Pallium in their own diocese.