On the feast of St. Agnes each year the Pope traditionally blesses the lambs whose wool will be used to make the new batch of palliums – the pallium being the band of wool that Metropolitan Archbishops (and various others) wear on certain occasions over their chasuble.
An explanation of the pallium at this site.
Traditionally, the lambs are sedated, tied down into a basket, then decorated with ribbons and flowers and so forth. It’s the sort of thing that nuns love to do. The Pope and various other prelates and sisters gather around and the blessing is recited. Here is a very short video of Pope Benedict’s doing the blessing last year:
It would seem that Pope Francis did not actually do the blessing this year. All the news reports thus far indicate that the blessing was done beforehand, and the lambs were simply presented to him. Not sure why. [UPDATE: the video that I posted below claims that he did bless them. In the end, who knows! Everyone else is saying otherwise.] Everyone knows that Pope Francis likes things to be simpler, so for example there wasn’t as much “dressing up” for today’s meeting with the lambs either. Anyway, here are a couple of photos that I found. You’ll note that the sisters did not neglect to gussy-up the lambs, all other indications for simplicity notwithstanding:
In any case, this was not Pope Francis’ first close encounter with lambs in recent days – here he is with a “living pallium” about two weeks ago:
Finally, here is a video of today’s ceremony (again, which claims that he blessed them, while everyone else says that they were already blessed. The video gets another major detail wrong, not that any of this is particularly consequential…).
Happy Feast of St. Agnes!