Pope Benedict XVI says the Second Vatican Council did not reject Eucharistic adoration outside of Mass, including the Corpus Christi procession that he led June 7 Rome.
“One unilateral interpretation of the Second Vatican Council has penalized this dimension, restricting in practice the Eucharist to the moment of celebration,” the Pope said during his homily for the feast of Corpus Christi.
“In this case, the accentuation placed on the celebration of the Eucharist acted to the detriment of adoration as an act of faith and prayer addressed to the Lord Jesus, truly present in the Sacrament of the Altar,” he stated.
Pope Benedict offered an open-air Mass in the piazza outside his cathedral, the Basilica of St. John Lateran. The feast of Corpus Christi commemorates the real presence of Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist and has been celebrated universally since 1264.
The Pope told the large outdoor congregation that the way Eucharistic adoration was de-emphasized in the Church was “influenced by a certain secularizing mentality of the 1960s and '70s,” and this had “repercussions for the spiritual life of the faithful.”
He proposed that limiting one’s relationship with the “Eucharistic Jesus” solely to the moment of the Mass risked “emptying his presence in the rest of existential time and space,” including in our daily lives.
The Pope explained that there is no contradiction or conflict between Christ worshipped in the Mass and Christ adored outside the sacred liturgy, since “communion and contemplation cannot be separated; they go together.”
“In order to truly communicate with another person, I have to know him. I need to know how to remain in silence near him, to listen to him, to look upon him with love,” he said.
“True love and true friendship,” he continued, “live always in this reciprocity of gazes, of intense eloquent silences, full of respect and of veneration, so that the encounter is lived profoundly, in a personal and not superficial way.”
Indeed, he proposed that Eucharistic adoration prepares the hearts of both priests and laypeople for a more fruitful encounter with Christ in the holy Mass. “In the moment of adoration, we are all on the same level, on bended knee before the Sacrament of Love,” he said.
Following tradition, the papal liturgy was followed by a Corpus Christi procession, led by the Pope towards the nearby Basilica of St. Mary Major. With the sun setting, tens of thousands of pilgrims carried candles and lanterns as they sang Eucharistic hymns and filed in procession behind the Eucharist in the monstrance, carried aloft on the decorated papal float. The evening concluded with Benediction outside the basilica, which Pope Benedict led.