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Pope Francis gave a solemn blessing with the Blessed Sacrament from the steps of the Basilica of St. Mary Major on Sunday in the culmination of a Eucharistic procession through the streets of Rome.

Holding the monstrance in his hands, the pope offered the blessing on the solemnity of Corpus Christi on June 2 following prayers of adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament. 

Crowds lined the streets as the Eucharist was carried under a canopy from the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran to the Basilica of St. Mary Major along the Via Merulana following the historic route Pope Gregory XIII created for religious processions between the two basilicas during the Jubilee of 1575.

Cardinals, bishops, priests, religious sisters, and families walked together in the one-hour procession singing hymns and reciting prayers. Curious tourists stopped to ask what was happening and onlookers leaned out their windows to watch as the real presence of Christ passed by.

“Beginning from the altar, we will carry the Consecrated Host among the homes of our city,” Pope Francis told the congregation in his homily for the Corpus Christi Mass before the procession. 

“We are not doing this to show off or to flaunt our faith but to invite everyone to participate in the bread of the Eucharist, in the new life that Jesus has given us,” he said. 

It was the first time that Pope Francis participated in Corpus Christi celebrations in Rome in years. 

Health issues prevented the pope from participating in a public Corpus Christi Mass in Rome in 2023 and 2022, and COVID-19 restrictions limited his celebration to Vatican City in 2021 and 2020.

This year Pope Francis did not walk in the Eucharistic procession but joined at the end for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and to offer the Eucharistic blessing to the crowd.

Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, the prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, served as the primary celebrant at the altar for the Mass at the Lateran basilica. Bishop Baldassare Reina, the vicegerent of the Diocese of Rome, carried the Eucharist in the procession. The last time that the pope led the Corpus Christi procession along the traditional Roman route from the Lateran basilica to St. Mary Major was seven years ago in 2017.

“The Eucharistic bread is the real presence,” Pope Francis said in his homily. “This speaks to us of a God who 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.”

“Dear brothers and sisters, how much need there is in our world for this bread,” Francis said. 

“It is urgent to bring back to the world the good and fresh aroma of the bread of love, to continue to hope and rebuild without ever growing weary of what hatred destroys.”

By Kate Quiñones

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