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An Example to Imitate: Pope Francis Celebrates Corpus Christi with Eucharistic Procession in Rome

Diane Montagna - published on 06/08/15

Video captures some of the most beautiful moments

VATICAN CITY — Following in the footsteps of his predecessors, Pope Francis this year again observed the liturgical feast of Corpus Christi, leading what has become the traditional candlelight Eucharistic procession through the streets of Rome.

The route begins at the basilica of St. John Lateran and ends at the basilica of St. Mary Major, just over a mile away.  

Although numerous bishops’ conferences have transferred the feast to this Sunday to accommodate the faithful, the Vatican liturgical calendar has stayed true to tradition, marking the Solemnity on the Thursday after Holy Trinity Sunday.

A wave of clergy and faithful participated in the Corpus Christi procession, including members of Eucharistic associations, children who recently made their First Holy Communion, religious, seminarians, priests, bishops and cardinals.

For reasons of health, after celebrating the Holy Mass of the feast at St. John Lateran, Pope Francis travelled by car to St. Mary Major, where he awaited the arrival of the Most Blessed Sacrament and concluded the celebration with the solemn rite of Benediction.

As the procession passed along the streets of Rome, onlookers watched from the sidewalks, tossed flower petals in front of the vehicle carrying the Blessed Sacrament accompanied by two deacons, and joined in singing Eucharistic hymns and reciting litanies.

It was Pope St. John Paul II who, in 1982, restored the Roman custom of the Corpus Christi procession, which had not taken place for over a hundred years. It was a custom that he deeply loved and continued throughout his pontificate, and one which Pope Benedict XVI also treasured.

In fact, in his homily for Corpus Christi 2012, Pope Benedict explained that a misunderstanding of Vatican II had led some Catholics, even priests, to think that Eucharistic Adoration and Corpus Christi processions are pietistic practices that pale in importance, or are somehow in competition with, the celebration of the Mass.

Yet, he said: “If I am truly to communicate with another person I must know him, I must be able to be in silence close to him, to listen to him and look at him lovingly. True love and true friendship are always nourished by the reciprocity of looks, of intense, eloquent silences full of respect and veneration.”  If this dimension is lacking, he added, “sacramental communion itself may become a superficial gesture on our part.”

“To be all together in prolonged silence before the Lord present in his Sacrament is one of the most genuine experiences of our being the Church,” he said. 

Pope Francis’ Homily

In his homily this year, Pope Francis emphasized that men, women and children today suffer not only from physical hunger, but also from a hunger for life, love and eternity — for God. And while the modern world seeks to entice and distract man in a thousand ways, in this life he can find what his heart most deeply longs for only in the Holy Eucharist.

The Eucharist communicates “God’s love for us”, the Pope said. “To live the experience of faith means allowing oneself to be nourished by the Lord and building one’s life not on material goods, but on a reality that does not perish: the gifts of God, his Word and his Body.”

“If we look around,” the bishop of Rome explained, “we realize that many forms of sustenance are offered to us that do not come from the Lord and seemingly offer more satisfaction.

“Some people sate themselves with money, others with success and vanity, others with power and pride,” he said. “But the food that truly nourishes and satisfies us is only that which comes from the Lord.”

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