The Vatican announced that Pope Francis will not walk in the Eucharistic procession during tonight’s Corpus Christi events.
The director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, made the announcement, saying, “Tonight, Pope Francis will take a car to Santa Maria Maggiore, rather than walk the procession, like he did last year.”
Pope Francis will still preside over the Eucharistic celebration for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi in the courtyard of the Basilica of Saint John Lateran, which begins at 7 p.m. However, he will not, at the end of the Mass, lead the traditional procession, which follows the Mass, to the nearby Basilica of Saint Mary Major, as he did last year and was expected to do this year, as the Vatican announced last Thursday. The Pontiff is still expected to impart the solemn Eucharistic Blessing.
The decision was presented by the Vatican as a precaution in the lead-up to his trip to Calabria in two days.
Tradition involves candle-carrying faithful taking part in the procession, thereby illuminating an otherwise dark Via Merulana, the arterial street leading from the archbasilica of St. John Lateran to the Marian Basilica of St. Mary Major. Although the way in which the Pope will arrive has changed, the festivities of the evening will still conclude in front of Saint Mary Major, with the Pope’s benediction with the Blessed Sacrament.
This news comes in the wake of the Pope’s recent health concerns. Last week, the Pope cancelled his scheduled Tuesday meeting with Rome’s judges, as he was feeling “indisposed,” as the the Vatican termed it.
The official Vatican announcement can be read below.
This evening, at the end of the celebration of the Mass in the churchyard of Saint John Lateran, the Pope will go directly in a covered car to the Square of Saint Mary Major to attend the procession with the most Blessed Sacrament, led by the Cardinal Vicar [of Rome], Agostino Vallini, to conclude it with the Solemn Blessing.
The Pope also felt it opportune not to follow the long itinerary on foot on via Merulana, between the two Basilicas, in view of his forthcoming commitments – in particular the trip to Cassan oall’Jonio, in Calabria, in two days’ time – and at the same time he preferred to avoid the trajectory in an open car so that, in keeping with the spirit of today’s celebration, the faithful’s attention would be concentrated instead on the Most Blessed Sacrament, exposed and taken in procession.[Translation by ZENIT]