July 7, 2017

Archbishop-designate Thompson’s ‘whirlwind’ month concludes with receiving pallium from Pope Francis

Pope Francis greets Archbishop-designate Charles C. Thompson of Indianapolis as he presents a pallium to the archdiocese’s new shepherd during a Mass marking the feast of SS. Peter and Paul in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on June 29. New archbishops from around the world received their palliums from the pope. The actual imposition of the pallium will take place in his archdiocese. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis greets Archbishop-designate Charles C. Thompson of Indianapolis as he presents a pallium to the archdiocese’s new shepherd during a Mass marking the feast of SS. Peter and Paul in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on June 29. New archbishops from around the world received their palliums from the pope. The actual imposition of the pallium will take place in his archdiocese. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

By John Shaughnessy

The smile from Pope Francis changed everything for Archbishop-designate Charles C. Thompson.

As he approached the Holy Father on June 29 in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, Archbishop-designate Thompson was still reeling from “the whirlwind effect” of being appointed by the pope on June 13 to lead the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

(See all stories, photos and videos related to Archbishop Thompson here)

Still, the archbishop-designate tried to savor everything surrounding the approaching moment when Pope Francis would give him a pallium—a woolen band worn over the shoulders that symbolizes his new, closer connection with the pope and his responsibility as the shepherd who will lead the Church in central and southern Indiana.

“I was paying attention to him wearing his pallium, and how he’s soon going to give one to me,” Archbishop-designate Thompson recalled. “I felt an awesome sense of responsibility.

“What really struck me was the Holy Father’s smile as I walked up to him. It was so reassuring, so affirming. That smile spoke volumes to me. I see him wearing his pallium, and I’m thinking about how he has the whole Church he’s responsible for. And he’s smiling. That just gave me a sense of tranquility.”

Pope Francis gave Archbishop-designate Thompson a pallium after the Mass on the feast day of SS. Peter and Paul. The pallium was folded up in a small wooden box tied with a brown ribbon. The symbol of authority and responsibility will be placed on the shoulders of Archbishop-designate Thompson during his installation Mass on July 28 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis.

“For me, authority has always been about service,” Archbishop-designate Thompson said. “Authority in the Church is responsibility.”

The ceremony at the Vatican also had another special touch for the former bishop of Evansville as he shared the experience of receiving a pallium with two friends who also have strong connections to Indiana—Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J., the former archbishop of Indianapolis, and Archbishop Paul D. Etienne, a former priest of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis who is now the archbishop of Anchorage, Alaska.

“They’re just great guys, and I have great admiration for both of them,” said Archbishop-designate Thompson. “They’re a great inspiration.”

In an interview with Catholic News Service following the ceremony, Cardinal Tobin described the pallium as a symbol of “the need and really the obligation of the bishop to look for the one who is lost and then bring the lost one back on his shoulders.”

Archbishop Etienne told Catholic News Service, “The role of every priest, and particularly every bishop, is to be more and more transformed into Christ. And that’s my prayer. And then whatever burdens come—and challenges—I’ll find my peace because I will be firmly convinced in experiencing his presence with me.”

Besides sharing the moment with his two friends, Archbishop-designate Thompson also savored the feeling of experiencing the occasion with the 33 other archbishops from 26 countries around the world.

“The guy next to me was from Kenya, and the guy behind me was from Brazil,” he says. “It really brought back to me the universality of the Church.”

During his homily at the Mass on June 29, Pope Francis told the new archbishops and the five new cardinals who had been appointed in the past year, “The Lord answers our prayers. He is faithful to the love we have professed for him, and he stands beside us at times of trial.”

Referring to how Christ walked with the Apostles, Pope Francis told the new cardinals and archbishops, “He will do the same for you.”

Before traveling to Italy to receive his pallium, Archbishop-designate Thompson asked the archdiocesan administrator, Msgr. William F. Stumpf, and the archdiocese’s chancellor, Annette “Mickey” Lentz, to accompany him.

“The most striking moment was the actual giving of the pallium to each archbishop,” Msgr. Stumpf noted. “As each archbishop approached Pope Francis, I thought about the fact that the pallia are stored overnight on June 28th in the silver casket above St. Peter’s tomb in the Vatican crypt.

“And as Christ asked Peter to feed his sheep and lambs, so the pope is asked in a special way to carry on that same mission. As the pope gives the pallium to each archbishop, he is inviting them to share in his mission of tending the flock. I realized that Pope Francis has asked Archbishop-designate Thompson to share in the responsibility of tending and feeding Christ’s sheep in Indianapolis and Indiana.”

Lentz considered the occasion a special one for a few reasons.

“Any day in the presence of Pope Francis is special,” she said. “I know Archbishop-designate Thompson felt the same way. He was anxious, yet humble and proud.

“The celebration certainly symbolized the importance of receiving the pallium. Cardinal Tobin recited the oath for all the bishops. I feel the reality of the honor—and the challenge of the assignment—resonated with Archbishop-designate Thompson. He is ready to lead the people of central and southern Indiana. He made us proud. I can tell you it’s a good choice made by Pope Francis.”

She also savored witnessing Archbishop-designate Thompson, Cardinal Tobin and Archbishop Etienne share the experience.

“The best part for me was seeing these three wonderful leaders giving witness to Pope Francis,” Lentz said. “It was a very proud moment for these ‘sons’ of Indiana as they shared this day, their passion and love for God, and their service to the Church.”

After the ceremony of June 29, Archbishop-designate Thompson returned to St. Peter’s Basilica a day later to pray quietly by himself in its Blessed Sacrament Chapel.

In that moment, he prayed for all the people in the three dioceses that have shaped his life and his ministry to the Church—the Archdiocese of Louisville where he grew up and became a priest, the Diocese of Evansville where he has served as bishop for the past six years, and the Archdiocese of Indianapolis where he will soon begin his latest assignment to serve the Church.

“I couldn’t pray for one without the other,” he said. “They’re all connected to me. They’re all a part of me. And they always will be.”

That moment also led Archbishop-designate Thompson to focus again on his main approach as the new archbishop once he is installed on July 28—to lead people to a closer relationship with God.

“I come back to Indiana, and I’m doing this with my brother bishops here, as well as the priests, the deacons and the laity in the archdiocese,” he said. “I’ve put my trust in the grace of God and the grace of the Holy Spirit.”
 

(For more information about the appointment of Archbishop Charles C. Thompson to lead the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and his upcoming July 28 installation Mass on July 28, visit www.archindy.org/archbishop/appointment2017.html.)

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