Those of you who have looked more closely at my background will have noticed that I majored in history in college and that the study of the history of theology was part of my post-graduate studies. History is very important, because the "communion of saints," which we profess in the creed and to which we belong, transcends any one time or place. In Christ we are part of a communion of faith that embraces all who have gone before us. Our Lady and saints who lived centuries ago can still become our friends today in prayer. One day we will all be reunited in heaven.
Having now taken my place in a long line of bishops and archbishops of Hartford, I would like to share with you some Church history that I hope will be of interest.
The first bit of history has to do with something that is still practiced today: namely, the pope’s conferral upon me and other newly appointed archbishops of what is called the pallium. Although no formal notice of this has yet been made for 2014, in recent decades a ceremony of conferral has taken place in Rome on June 29, the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul.
If you look closely at the archbishops or the pope at Mass, you will notice a white band with crosses on it that is worn over the shoulders and down the front and back over our Mass vestments. This is the pallium.
Though the origin of the pallium is unclear, there is a record of its use by the pope already in the fourth century, and by the sixth century it was being conferred by the pope as an honor for use by other bishops, too. By the ninth century, all archbishops received it as a sign of unity with the pope and as a symbol of the fact that an archbishop should be clothed with virtue in the exercise of his pastoral ministry.
Every year on Jan. 21 – the feast of St. Agnes – two lambs are presented to be blessed and presented to the pope. From the wool of these lambs the palliums are woven. After these are solemnly blessed, they are kept in a special silver-gilt box near the tomb of St. Peter in the Vatican Basilica until their conferral upon the new archbishops for that year.
When, God willing, I receive the pallium in June, I will be one in a very long line of archbishops who have gone before me, and I count on your prayers that I may be worthy of the honor and the responsibility.
All bishops are successors of the Apostles through an unbroken lineage of ordinations (the "laying on of hands") going back to the very beginning of the Church. As one researcher writes: "Episcopal lineages have long fascinated students of Church history. It was not until the middle of the 20th century, however, that a systematic attempt was made to trace and catalogue the consecrations [i.e. ordinations] of bishops on a world-wide basis."
This is the second bit of history I want to share with you. On the basis of the research which has been done, my own episcopal lineage can be traced back to the year 1541. Unfortunately, no written records have been found to continue the lineage further back. I was ordained a bishop by Detroit’s Cardinal Maida, who was ordained by Cardinal Laghi, who was ordained by Cardinal Cicognani, etc.
The sequence of names and episcopal ordination dates is as follows:
Leonard P. Blair (1999)
Adam J. Maida (1984)
Pio Laghi (1969)
Amleto Giovanni Cicognani (1933)
Raffaele Carlo Rossi (1920)
Gaetano DeLai (1911)
Giuseppe Sarto – Pope St. Piux X (1884)
Lucido Maria Parocchi (1871)
Costantino Patrizi (1828)
Carlo Odescalchi (1823)
Giulio Maria della Somaglia (1788)
Hyacinthe-Sigismond Gerdil (1777)
Marcantonio Colonna (1762)
Carlo Rezzonico – Pope Clement XIII (1743)
Prospero Lambertini – Pope Benedict XIV (1724)
Vincenzo Maria Orsini – Pope Benedict XIII (1675)
Paluzzo Altieri (1666)
Ulderico Carpegna (1630)
Luigi Caetani (1622)
Lodovico Ludovisi (1621)
Galeazzo Sanvitale (1604)
Girolamo Bernerio (1586)
Giulio Antonio Santoro (1566)
Scipione Rebiba (1541) – to date, after extensive research, no written record of his episcopal ordination can be found, so there is no way to know who came before him.
Knowing who came before Scipione Rebiba is probably one of those questions that will only be answered in eternity; but in the meantime, the history of the Church can give us much food for thought and prayer. God bless you.