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Pope misses traditional Eucharistic procession for Corpus Christi

June 19, 2014

Pope Francis chose not to walk in the traditional Corpus Christi procession across the city of Rome on June 19, rousing new speculation about the Pontiff’s health.

The Pope celebrated Mass at the basilica of St. John Lateran, but did not join the Eucharistic celebration from there to the basilica of St. Mary Major. Instead he rode in a car, greeting the procession as it reached the 2nd basilica, where the day’s ceremonies concluded with Benediction.

Vatican spokesmen insisted that there was no reason for concern about the Pope’s health, despite a series of cancelled events in the past few weeks. The Pontiff, they said, has trouble walking distances because of sciatica. (The Eucharistic procession covers a route over a mile long.) The Holy Father is also conserving his strength for other events, officials said.

In past years, both St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI chose to ride along the route of the procession in a flatbed truck, kneeling before the Eucharist. Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, explained that Pope Francis declined that option “so that, in accordance with the spirit of today's celebration, the attention of the faithful would remain focused on the Blessed Sacrament" and not on the Pontiff.

The feast of Corpus Christi is observed as a holy day in Rome on the Thursday following Trinity Sunday, and Vatican offices are closed. In many other locales, including the US, the feast is celebrated on next Sunday.


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