Pallium reminds a bishop of his mission to be a good shepherd, says nuncio

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Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Christophe Pierre invested Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre of Louisville with the pallium during a liturgy Sept. 20 at the Cathedral of the Assumption. Seminarians for the Archdiocese of Louisville Cole McDowell, left, and Michael Schultz looked on. The pallium, blessed by Pope Francis June 29, is a symbol of communion and unity, the nuncio said. Photo by Ruby Thomas/The Record

LOUISVILLE, Ky. During a liturgy in the presence of family members, the faithful of the Archdiocese of Louisville and bishops of the Province of Louisville, Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre was invested with the pallium Sept. 20.

The vestment – woven from lamb’s wool and blessed by Pope Francis June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul – is “simple yet has great meaning,” said Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States. He conferred the pallium at the beginning of an evening Mass at the Cathedral of the Assumption.   

In his homily, Archbishop Pierre said the liturgy provided an opportunity to gather and reflect upon the different meanings of the pallium, a vestment conferred on metropolitan archbishops.

“It reminds the metropolitan archbishop and the faithful that the particular vocation and mission of every bishop is none other than to be a good shepherd: A shepherd who places his sheep upon his shoulders, carries, guides, cares for and leads him to the source of living water.”

The pallium also indicates that the archbishop is to be a good shepherd of the metropolitan church “which seeks to promote, maintain and enhance” fraternity and communion between the bishops of the province and among the faithful, the nuncio said.

In that respect, Archbishop Fabre has “big shoes to fill. … He follows Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, who used his gifts to build up unity in the province and beyond, serving as president of the episcopal conference,” said Archbishop Pierre. 

He added that Archbishop Fabre’s shoes are “quite big also,” drawing laughter from the congregation. 

The Province of Louisville includes the dioceses of Kentucky (Louisville, Covington, Lexington and Owensboro) and Tennessee (Nashville, Memphis and Knoxville).

Archbishop Pierre said the task of maintaining unity has now “fallen to Archbishop Fabre, who is the heir of the great pioneer and missionary Bishop Benedict Joseph Flaget, bishop of this territory when it was still wilderness.” 

“Perhaps in this changed and secularized culture, this land seems once again like missionary territory,” the nuncio said. “The Holy Father wants us to be a missionary Church, one that goes forth with the gift of faith and the words of the Gospel. …  Archbishop Fabre has been chosen to lead, to strengthen and to build up this province, losing himself for the sake of Christ and his Church.”

Archbishop Pierre called the congregation’s attention to the day’s Gospel reading, which highlights the “imposition of the cross in the life of every believer,” he said. 

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells his followers, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.”

The apostolic nuncio said the pallium will remind Archbishop Fabre “of the cross by which Jesus, the Good Shepherd, gave his life for his sheep. … He offered himself freely and fully as a sacrifice upon the cross. This is what it means to be a good shepherd, to offer one’s life in sacrifice for everyone.”

Jesus desires this “service of love” to be carried out until the end of time, Archbishop Pierre said. This is why, after his death, Christ appears to his disciple Simon Peter and gives him the task of the good shepherd – to “feed my sheep.” 

As successors of the apostle, bishops are called to do the same, the nuncio said.

Ruby Thomas is a staff writer for The Record, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Louisville.

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