To celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi today, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass outside the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome this evening in front of several thousand faithful.

And following papal tradition, he then led the Eucharistic Procession from St. John Lateran to the Basilica of St. Mary Major, about a mile away.

In his homily, and with the Year for Priests beginning later this month, the Holy Father made a special appeal to priests: “Only in union with Jesus can you draw spiritual fruitfulness that generates hope in your pastoral ministry,” he said, and quoted St Leo the Great who said that ‘our participation in the Body and Blood of Christ does not tend to nothing but we become what we receive.’

“If this is true for every Christian, it is all the more reason for us priests,” the Pope said. “Be the Eucharist! This is our constant desire and effort…Every day, we draw from the Body and Blood of the Lord which freely and purely makes us worthy ministers of Christ and witnesses of his joy.”

The Pope also warned against taking faith in the Eucharist for granted.

“There is now a risk of creeping secularization within the Church, which can result in an empty, formal practice of Eucharistic worship, with celebrations that deprive participation of the heart,” said Benedict, who went on to stress the importance of reverence and respect for the liturgy.

“It’s always a strong temptation to reduce prayer to the surface and hurried moments, letting oneself be overwhelmed by activities and earthly concerns,” he added.

Looking ahead to the procession that followed, the Pope reminded the faithful of the accompanying prayer: “Stay with us Jesus, bring us the gift of yourself and give us the bread that nourishes us for eternal life!,” the Pope said. “Free this world from the poison of evil, the violence and hatred that pollutes consciences, purify them with the power of your merciful love. And you, Mary, you have been the ‘Eucharist’ woman all through your life. Help us to walk together towards the goal of heaven, nourished by the Body and Blood of Christ, the bread of eternal life and divine medicine of immortality. Amen!”

Here are some more of my photos of the Corpus Christi celebration: