Among the highlights of Pope John Paul II's busy schedule of events for June are two trips abroad and three traditional celebrations in the life of the Church: World Communications Day, the feast of Corpus Christi and the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul.
June 1 is the 37th World Communications Day. Traditionally celebrated on the Sunday before Pentecost, this day is marked by a message from the Holy Father, which is published on the Jan. 24 feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron of journalists. The theme of the 2003 message, which the Pope will highlight in remarks at the Angelus that day, is “Communications Media at the Service of Authentic Peace in the Light of Pacem in Terries” (Peace on Earth, Pope John XXIII's 1963 encyclical).
On June 5 the Pope heads to Croatia for a five-day trip, where he is scheduled to travel by plane, boat and car. This Balkan republic has a population of 4.6 million people, 84% of whom are Catholic. Requests by journalists to accompany John Paul on his history-making 100th apostolic trip outside of Italy have flooded the accreditation desk of the Holy See press office from every part of the world, though only about 60 members of the media can be accommodated on the papal plane.
Members of the Pontifical Work of the Holy Childhood, on the occasion of the 160th anniversary of its founding, will be received by the Holy Father in an audience in St. Peter's Square on June 14. The Holy Childhood is one of the four branches of the Pontifical Missionary Works and, through missionary animation and formation, it assists more than 1 billion children worldwide, including about 300 million Catholic youngsters.
One of the most evocative liturgical celebrations of the year is the feast of Corpus Christi, which this year falls on June 19 (in the United States, it is celebrated under the name of Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ on Sunday, June 22).
Dating back to 1246, this solemnity is marked by an evening papal Mass on the esplanade at St. John Lateran Basilica and a Eucharistic procession along Via Merulana, lined by tens of thousands of faithful, to St. Mary Major Basilica where the Pope imparts his blessing. The procession between the two Roman basilicas commenced in the 1400s. Its current itinerary began in 1575 when Pope Gregory XIII built the street that links them, and this route was followed for more than 300 years until the procession fell into disuse. John Paul revived the custom in 1979 and has processed the distance on foot every year, except in 1981, after the attack on his life in St. Peter's Square, and in 1994 following hip surgery. Since 1995 he has ridden in an open, canopy-covered vehicle, seated before a small altar bearing the monstrance and host.
On June 22 the Holy Father will undertake his 101st foreign trip, one of the briefest of his pontificate, traveling just for the day to Banja Luka, Bosnia-Herzegovina, where, during a Eucharistic celebration, he will beatify Ivan Merz. Merz, a Bosnian Croat layman who took a vow of celibacy, devoted his free time to the Church, teaching and evangelizing Croatians. He helped found Catholic Action in Croatia and died in 1928 at age 31.
June 29, the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, is a very joyful occasion on the Pope's calendar, for on that day, in a concelebrated Mass in St. Peter's Square, he bestows the pallium on metropolitan archbishops whom he has appointed during the year.
A pallium is a band of white wool with two hanging pieces, front and back, that is decorated with seven black crosses and represents the authority of a metropolitan and unity with the Holy Father. Palliums are woven from the wool of baby lambs that are blessed by the Pope each year on the Jan. 21 feast of St. Agnes, whose symbol is a lamb. They are stored in a special coffer in the confessio below the main altar of St. Peter's Basilica.
Significantly, June 29 is only the second day each year when the statue of St. Peter in the basilica is dressed in ornate papal vestments and wears the triple tiara and a papal ring on the index finger of his right hand (the other day is Feb. 22, feast of the Chair of Peter).
Joan Lewis works for Vatican Information Service.