TWO THOMASIAN prelates became new “shepherds of Jesus Christ” after receiving the “pallium” from Pope Benedict XVI in Vatican last June 29.

Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, 61 and Tuguegarao Archbishop Sergio Ulteg, 67, received the pallium, together with 40 other metropolitan archbishops from 25 countries, during the conferment rites at St. Peter’s Basilica. Palma and Utleg were the only Filipinos who received the pallium this year.

The pallium is a white, circular vestment worn around the neck, breast, and shoulders, with two pendants hanging down at the front and back, given to a new archbishop. Bishops may receive the pallium as a mark of “special favor,” exemplifying their participation in the supreme pastoral power of the Pope.

The pallium is given yearly to new archbishops and principal bishops during the celebration of the Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul.

“[The pallium] may remind us in the first instance of Christ’s easy yoke that is laid upon us. Christ’s yoke is identical with his friendship. It is a yoke of friendship and therefore ‘a sweet yoke,’ but as such it is also a demanding yoke, one that forms us. It is the yoke of his will, which is a will of truth and love,” said the Holy Father in his homily.

Born in Iloilo, Palma was ordained to priesthood at the age of 26. He took his Licentiate in Theology at the UST Central Seminary, where he graduated magna cum laude, and pursued his Doctorate in Theology at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (“Angelicum”) in Rome, where he also graduated with the same honor.

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Palma was installed as Cebu’s fourth archbishop, replacing Ricardo Cardinal Vidal last January 13.

Utleg, on the other hand, was ordained as priest in Rome in 1968. He graduated with a Bachelor in Philosophy degree in 1961 and Licentiate in Philosophy in 1964, both from the UST Central Seminary.

Utleg was bishop of Laoag before succeeding Archbishop Diosdado Talamayan, also a Thomasian, in Tuguegarao this year.“The pallium is received from the hands of the ‘Successor of Peter’ and worn by the archbishops as a sign of communion in faith and love, and in the governance of God’s people,” the Holy Father said in Italian in his plurilingual address to the pallium recipients.

Last year, Archbishop Socrates Villegas was the only Filipino who received the pallium.

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