Today is the solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, Corpus Christi. Masses and processions are taking place around the world, and the city of Rome was no exception. His Holiness Pope Francis marked the solemnity by leading proceedings in the eternal city. He began by celebrating mass on the steps of his Cathedral Church, the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran. Many thousands gathered in the square in front of the Archbasilica as Pope Francis arrived. Following the proclamation of the gospel, the Pontiff delivered his sermon to the faithful there gathered.
The Holy Father focused on theme of today’s feast, the body and blood of Christ. He said it is unlike food of this world, that its substance is love and can regenerate our souls. The pope noted that there are many earthly foods, which often appear more satisfying: money, success, vanity, power and pride. He likened this to the Jews who roamed through the desert in the Old Testament, remembering the good food they had in Egypt. Francis said, that despite the taste of the food being good, it came from the hand of slavery. He said we must ask ourselves, do we want to eat what is always tasty, or do we want to eat in the company of the Lord? The pope told the faithful that we must be able to recognize the foods of selfishness and sin. He asked people to pray during this evening’s procession, that the lord purify their memories of worldly and sinful choices and instead give us memories of Christ and his redemptive love.
The mass then proceeded with the creed, the offertory and the Eucharist. At the consecration, the moment, which the bread is transformed into the body Christ the Holy Father said: TAKE THIS, ALL OF YOU, AND EAT OF IT, FOR THIS IS MY BODY,
WHICH WILL BE GIVEN UP FOR YOU.
The Holy Father then spoke the following words, consecrating the wine into the blood of Christ: TAKE THIS, ALL OF YOU, AND DRINK FROM IT, FOR THIS IS THE CHALICE OF MY BLOOD, THE BLOOD OF THE NEW AND ETERNAL COVENANT, WHICH WILL BE POURED OUT FOR YOU AND FOR MANY FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS. DO THIS IN MEMORY OF ME.
Following the distribution of Holy Communion, the monstrance was brought to the altar along with the Blessed Sacrament where it was exposed. Pope Francis venerated the Blessed Sacrament with incense before it was taken to the Eucharistic procession. Preferring the focus to be on the Blessed Sacrament and not himself, Pope Francis chose not to walk in the procession through the city. Various fraternities bearing colorful banners and donning equally colorful robes led the procession down Via Merulana. Servers, nuns, priests, bishops and Cardinals followed, all bearing candles lighting up the otherwise dark street. A vehicle bearing the Blessed Sacrament on a pedestal followed them with two deacons keeping vigil with it as it travelled through the streets. Many thousands of people followed the Blessed Sacrament as well as lined the route through Rome.
The procession then arrived in the square in front of the Basilica of St. Mary Major, where the Blessed Sacrament was brought forward to an altar on the steps of the Basilica. It was met by Pope Francis who travelled there to lead Benediction as choirs sang Tantum Ergo.
Pope Francis then took the Blessed Sacrament and blessed the thousands gathered for the solemnity.
After blessing the people, the divine praises were sung in Italian. The Blessed Sacrament was then removed from the monstrance and returned to the tabernacle inside the basilica. Pope Francis then venerated the Icon of Our Lady Protectress of the Roman People before retiring to the evening.