Corpus Christi procession is not sign of pride but invitation, pope says

3 mins read
POPE FRANCIS CORPUS CHRISTI
Rome Auxiliary Bishop Baldo Reina carries the Eucharist under a canopy during a Corpus Christi procession to the Basilica of St. Mary Major after Pope Francis' Mass for the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ in Rome's Basilica of St. John Lateran June 2, 2024. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

ROME (CNS) — When Catholics carry the Eucharist through the streets, “we are not doing this to show off or to flaunt our faith” but to invite others to share in the life that Jesus gives by making himself a gift, Pope Francis said.

“Let’s make the procession in this spirit, ” the pope said June 2 in his homily at a Mass for the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ.

Pope Francis presided over the Mass in Rome’s Basilica of St. John Lateran, his cathedral as bishop of Rome. Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, was the main celebrant at the altar.

People walk in procession to the Basilica of St. Mary Major after Pope Francis Mass for the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ in Rome’s Basilica of St. John Lateran June 2, 2024. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

After Mass, more than 3,000 people — cardinals, bishops, priests, religious, lay members of confraternities and sodalities, Romans and pilgrims — participated in the Corpus Christi procession to the Basilica of St. Mary Major, about a mile away. Rome Auxiliary Bishop Baldo Reina carried the Eucharist under a canopy held aloft by eight men.

Pope Francis, who has difficulty walking and often uses a wheelchair, was driven to St. Mary Major to welcome the procession and lead adoration and Benediction.

The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist

In his homily at the Mass, Pope Francis said the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist demonstrates that God is “not distant and jealous, but close and in solidarity with humanity; a God who does not abandon us but always seeks, waits for and accompanies us, even to the point of placing himself, helpless, into our hands, subjecting himself to our acceptance or rejection.”

A member of the Pontifical Swiss Guards stands watch as the first reading is read at Mass with Pope Francis for the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ in Rome’s Basilica of St. John Lateran June 2, 2024. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

“His real presence also invites us to be close to our brothers and sisters wherever love calls us,” the pope said.

The sign of bread is important, the pope said, because “it is the food of daily life, and with it we bring to the altar all that we are and all that we have: our lives, work, successes and failures too.”

In some cultures, he said, if someone drops a piece of bread from the table, they pick it up and kiss it as a sign that “it is too precious to be thrown away, even if it has fallen.”

The Eucharist’s call to thanksgiving and forgiveness

The Eucharist teaches Catholics “to bless, to gather and to cherish God’s gifts as a sign of thanksgiving” by not wasting food or talents, for example, but also by “forgiving and helping raise up those who make mistakes and fall because of weakness or lapses, acknowledging that everything is a gift and nothing should be lost, that no one should be left behind and that everyone deserves a chance to get back on their feet.”

Pope Francis raises the Eucharist in a monstrance during Eucharistic Benediction at the end of a Corpus Christi procession outside the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome June 2, 2024, the feast of the Body and Blood of the Lord. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

Pope Francis also spoke about the fragrance of bread and how, “every day we see too many streets that were once filled with the smell of freshly baked bread, but are now reduced to rubble by war, selfishness and indifference!”

“We urgently need to bring back to our world the good, fresh aroma of the bread of love, to continue tirelessly to hope and rebuild what hatred destroys,” he said.

Prayers for war-torn countries

Reciting the Angelus prayer earlier in the day with visitors gathered under the rain in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis prayed for war-torn countries where finding one’s daily bread is a challenge.

He prayed for Sudan, “where the war that has been going on for over a year still has not found a peaceful solution.”

“And let us not forget tormented Ukraine, Palestine, Israel (and) Myanmar,” he said. “I appeal to the wisdom of those who govern to cease the escalation and to put every effort into dialogue and negotiation.”

Breaking of the bread

In his main Angelus address, he called attention to the Gospel’s description of Jesus breaking the bread and sharing it with his disciples.

“In the broken bread and in the chalice offered to the disciples,” the pope said, “it is he who gives himself for all humanity and offers himself for the life of the world.”

Because of that, he said, partaking of the Eucharist “is not an act of worship detached from life or a mere moment of personal consolation; we must always remember that Jesus took the bread, broke it and gave it to them and, therefore, communion with him makes us also capable of becoming bread broken for others, capable of sharing what we are and what we have.”

Cindy Wooden

Cindy Wooden is a journalist with Catholic News Service.