Sheep and lambs © Drew Rawcliffe (shutterstock)
In the Roman basilica of Sant'Agnese, the Agnes lambs, from whose wool the stoles for newly appointed archbishops are made, have been blessed. The ceremony took place on the feast of the early Christian martyr Agnes.
It was held at the catacomb named after her on the Via Nomentana. God chose the weak to destroy the strong, said Franco Bergamin, Abbot General of the Augustinian Canons of St. John Lateran, during the blessing of the two white animals garlanded with flowers.
With the wool of the lambs, which were brought in baskets to the act of blessing, nuns weave narrow shoulder bands embroidered with black crosses. These so-called pallia are awarded by the pope to new leaders of archdioceses and are considered a sign of special attachment to the Church of Rome.
Memory of martyr Agnes
The name of Agnes, who according to tradition died as a teenager in the third century, is popularly associated with the Latin word for lamb (agnus).
Bergamin said in his homily that Agnes suffered a "double martyrdom for chastity and for the faith". Since the early church, the saint has appealed especially to young people. Today, too, Christians are called to be witnesses, the abbot said, referring to current, ongoing persecutions of Christians worldwide.