At Thursday’s Corpus Christi Mass and Eucharistic Procession in Rome, diverse faithful –including a priest, non-Catholics and a young university student from the United States, as well as a Roman woman who has participated in the tradition every year from John Paul II to Pope Francis — have offered to ZENIT their views on the event and how it struck them.
Fr. Sergio Tapia-Velasco, originally from Mexico, has been living in Rome for more than 20 years, and teaches Church Communications at Rome’s Pontifical University of Santa Croce. He spoke on the event’s significance, as well as reflected on how Pope Francis is no different than any other faithful follower of Christ.
He reflected on why priests’ participation in the procession is especially meaningful. He said, “I think that for any priest and certainly for any faithful in the Church it is important that we are at the side of our pastors.The procession for Corpus Christ, even in addition to seeing and being with the Pope, is an important appointment for each one of us, not only because we want to praise our Lord and thank him that he has become flesh and wants to remain with us in the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist, but also because we want to praise that Jesus wanted to remain with us in the form of his pastors, particularly the Pope.”
He added that, “as a young priest, I often think that whenever I or fellow young priests meet any bishop or the Pope, we realize how difficult it must be to lift the burden of the Church and carry it across from day to day.”
“So, then, the thought is: When and how can I help the Pope? … Well, certainly we can help him everyday through prayers, but at these sorts of occasions, we can be at his side, and that is important,” he said.
Regarding Pope Francis’ decision not to walk in this year’s Eucharistic Procession, he said, “I just see it as such a great act of humility because I am sure he wanted to walk, but he is obedient to his doctors, and he is obedient to those around him who reminded him, ‘Remember you are 77, you are no longer a boy, you need to save [your strength] for your future appointments.’ I understand perfectly.”
The priest compared the Pontiff to his father, saying, “I could imagine what it would have been like if my father wanted to do this procession … Well, maybe he could have the strength to do it.” In any case, the priest added, “I am sure the Pope would have preferred to remain with the people, than go by car.
“But, again, the important thing in this moment is that the Pope is just like another faithful. He is just following Christ and if I cannot follow him on foot … Well, I will follow him, well, by car. The important thing is to follow the Lord.”
Next, ZENIT heard a non-Catholic point of view, from a group from the States.
“We were raised Methodists, but we were drawn here tonight,” one of them offered. “For one thing, because this Pope seems remarkably inclusive. I think he has an appeal to everyone.”
“Also,” said a woman who explained she is Methodist, and who shared that two of her aunts had been nuns, “to be here and witness the beautiful history of this event and tradition, and to see the faith of the nuns, religious, and everyone, is truly moving. It’s an incredible and profound ceremony.”
Antonella from Rome, who has participated in the Corpus Christi tradition since Pope John Paul II, shared with ZENIT the aspects of the homily that struck her most.
“I found to be significant the message that we are not to eat in the ways that are not of Jesus Christ, as we ought to avoid these temptations,” she said. “It struck me when Francis said certain words related to the Eucharistic mystery are not to be taken literally. They are more conceptual. For example, when Francis said, we don’t need need to feed ourselves in other ways … and he had given many examples … this was moving, as it directed us to feed and nourish ourselves from that which comes from Christ–the Eucharist.”
Speaking on the Eucharist, the theme of Francis’ homily, she said this theme was enlightening as it reminded us that “the Eucharistic bread is what we need for nourishment. We realize that Christ is present in his Body and Blood.”
She reflected with ZENIT about how Pope John Paul II, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis differ from one another.
“All of them had manifested a great love for the Eucharist. However, each did so with his own personal style,” she added. “Benedict, from my own point of view, did so in a way which was more theological; John Paul II did so with affection and with love toward the Eucharist. You were able to see that he was expressing all of his love and affection. With Pope Francis, with a simple attitude, he makes us understand that we must, we should, go toward Christ, toward the Eucharist, especially in all the difficulties and problems of our lives.”
Kelly Krueger, a university student from Maryville University in St. Louis, Missouri, also spoke to ZENIT about her experience.
This event “was truly overwhelming,” she exclaimed.
“I am here studying abroad in Rome, but tonight, as I have said to others, has been ‘self-affirming’ for me.”
She explained, “For years, I studied the Church, Latin, and so on, but tonight, to be here, participate, and listen to the Holy Father, really is where all these factors came together. It all of a sudden made perfect sense.”