In my first post on the NLM, I want to look at the pallium, which has seen a recent change introduced at the installation of our reigning Pontiff, Benedict XVI. (The lambs of whose wool this year's new pallia will be made were blessed this Monday, at which occasion the Holy Father wore a beautiful old papal stole again, this time of Leo XIII).
"As decoration of the pallium, only crosses had ever been employed. In the beginning, two only were applied, one on the front and one the back end. A greater number of crosses seems only to have become common during the 9th century, but a determined precept about their number did not exist in the entire middle ages. Even the pallium of Archbishop Klemens August of Cologne († 1761) still showed eight crosses, not six like today.
"Concerning the colour, the crosses on the older monuments are normally blackish, but red ones do also occur. The medieval liturgists mostly describe the crosses as red. On the few remains of pallia which have been preserved from the middle ages, the crosses are mostly black resp. dark blue; they are red on the fragment of a pallium from the 15th century in the Trier cathedral museum. Of the eight crosses of the pallium of the Archbishop Klemens August two were black, the other ones red. In short, also regarding the colour of the crosses until the most recent times there was no fixed rule, only that they were either black (dark blue) or red, but not of another colour.
"The pins, with which the pallium was fixed in the 8th century, remained even when the pallium had taken on a fixed form, initially perhaps still to affix the pallium to the chasuble. Later, and thus at least already about 1300, they were mere decoration, which is why now loops were attached at the crosses to receive the pins."
Now let us consider, in the light of this historical development, the pallium as recently adopted by the Supreme Pontiff. Let me say in advance, however, that this is in no way intended to be a criticism of our gloriously reigning Holy Father, who was, upon his election to the pontifical throne, presented with the new design as a fait accompli, and whose careful and patient reform of the reform, beginning by a reorientation of the sacred liturgy, I fully support. This is only about the new papal pallium itself as a new form for an ancient piece of vesture. Likewise, I am not commenting on the aesthetics of the new design or on the reenforced likeness to the eastern omophorion, but purely on its relation to the historical developement of this parament in the West. This is how it now looks:
Obviously, the earliest form was adopted. The question already arises whether the readoption of this form, which has not been worn in the West since the eighth century, i.e. for almost 1300 years, discarding a continuous development of 1000 years, does not constitute a form of antiquarianism. Furthermore, even though the earliest form has been adopted, the pins have remained. As we have seen, the pins only appeared when there was need for them, because the ends of the pallium did not hang down directly from the shoulder anymore, but from the middle, to which they were fixed by these pins. The continued use of the pins together with a form that was worn before the use of the pins first arose seems inconguous. They serve no purpose, and while that is not necessarily an argument against them and they did not serve a practical purpose in the pallium as worn until 2005 and still worn by metropolitan archbishops, there they represent, as so many elements of paraments, the vestige of a former use. But in returning to a form used before the first appearance of the pins, these become anachronistic. Likewise, the change in the colour of the cross appears somewhat arbitrary. As we have seen, the earliest monuments only show black crosses, and there never was a fixed rule until relatively recently, when the colour was settled on black. To choose red for all the crosses seems unmotivated. The same could be said of their number. When a pallium of this form was worn, it was adorned by only two crosses. The five crosses we now see are without example. Lastly, the introduction of a special form of the papal pallium as opposed to that of the metropolitans is without precedent and runs counter to that deeper bond of unity which is to be symbolised by the concession of the pallium to the metropolitans. These are some considerations which might be taken into account when evaluating the introduction of this new form and the desirability of its continued use. Obviously, as mentioned above, there are also other considerations. Also, it should again be stressed that these somewhat critical thoughts about the new form of the pallium do not in any way detract from the immensely praiseworthy work of a gradual reorientation and re-reform of the liturgy, which His Holiness has begun to undertake.
This rule, certainly known to our ceremonialists, seems to have fallen into oblivion, since, as far as I know, it doesn't apply any more under the new Pontificale. This can be seen by the pictures of the two pontifical Masses below, celebrated by Msgrs. Piñera and Prendergast, who each wore their pallium on a day not specified under the old rules. This is not to criticise these bishops, who were certainly and understandably unaware of the rule. However, I believe in the context of a Mass in the extraordinary form of the Roman rite the old Pontificale should be followed, and the pallium therefore only be worn on the days there specified.