Pope Francis celebrates feast of St Agnes by blessing lambs

Vatican City, Jan 22 (IANS/AKI) Pope Francis celebrated the feast of St Agnes in the Vatican with the centuries-old rite of blessing of the lambs, Vatican Radio reported.

The two lambs were blessed by Pope Francis in the Urban VIII Chapel on Thursday, the radio station said.

To symbolise St Agnes’s purity, when being blessed by the Pope, one of the lambs wears a crown of white flowers, while the other wears a red floral wreath to recall her faithful witness even unto death.

Agnes means “lamb” in Latin. St. Agnes, a martyr of the early fourth century known for her consecrated virginity, was killed as a young girl for refusing to worship pagan gods. She is buried in the Basilica named for her, located on Rome’s Via Nomentana.

During the summer months, the lambs, which have been blessed by the pontiff when less than a year old, are shorn and their wool used to make Palliums.

These are white wool stoles, decorated with six black crosses worn by Metropolitan Archbishops around their necks as a symbol of their authority and unity with the Pope.

Once woven, the Palliums are guarded in an urn at the tomb of St. Peter until the Pope blesses them on June 29, the feast of St Peter and Paul, Vatican Radio said.

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