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Solemnity of Corpus Christi 1979

On Thursday 14th June, Pope St John Paul II celebrated Corpus Domini in the Vatican with Mass with first communicants in St Peter's Basilica and then the prayer of the Angelus in St Peter's Square. On the afternoon of Sunday 17th June (when Corpus Domini was celebrated in Italy), Papa Giovanni Paolo II celebrated Holy Mass in the Basilica of St John Lateran, before participating in the Eucharistic Procession from there to the Basilica of St Mary Major.

St John Paul II's homily at Mass celebrated with First Communicants
St Peter's Basilica, Thursday 14 June 1979 - also in French, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dearest boys and girls!
Great is my joy in seeing you here, so numerous and so full of fervour, to celebrate with the Pope the liturgical Solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord!

I greet you all and each of you in particular with the deepest tenderness, and I thank you from my heart for having come to renew your Holy Communion with the Pope and for the Pope; I thank also your parish priests, always dynamic and zealous, and your parents and relatives, who have prepared you and accompanied you.

I have still before my eyes the impressive sight of the immense multitudes met during my journey in Poland; and now here is the spectacle of the children of Rome, here is your marvellous innocence, your sparkling eyes, your restless smiles!

You are the favourites of Jesus: "Let the children come to me!", the divine Master said, "Do not hinder them!" (Lk 18, 16).

You are also my favourites!

Dear boys and girls! You prepared for your First Communion with such commitment and diligence, and your first meeting with Jesus was a moment of intense emotion and deep happiness. Remember for ever this blessed day of your First Communion! Remember for ever your fervour and your purest joy!

And now you have come here, to renew your meeting with Jesus. You could not make me more beautiful and precious gift!

Many children had expressed the desire to receive First Communion from the hands of the Pope. Certainly, it would have been a great pastoral consolation for me to give Jesus for the first time to the boys and girls of Rome. But that is not possible; and then it is better for each child to receive his First Communion in his own parish, from his own parish priest. But at least it is possible for me to give Holy Communion today to representatives of yours, keeping all the others present in my love, in this vast and magnificent Cenacle! And this is for me and for you an immense joy which we will never forget! At the same time I wish to leave with you some thoughts, which can help you to keep your faith always limpid, your love for Jesus in the Eucharist fervent, and your life innocent.

1. Jesus is present with us. This is the first thought.

Jesus has risen, has ascended to heaven; but he has wanted to remain with us and for us, in all the places of the earth. The Eucharist is really a divine invention!

Before dying on the Cross, offering his life to the Father in sacrifice of adoration and love, Jesus instituted the Eucharist, transforming the bread and the wine into his very own Person and giving the Apostles and their successors, the Bishops and Priests, the power of rendering him present in the Holy Mass.

Jesus thus wished to remain with us for ever! Jesus wished to unite himself intimately with us in Holy Communion, so as to show us his love directly and personally. Each one can say: "Jesus loves me! I love Jesus."

St Therese of the Child Jesus, recalling the day of her First Communion, wrote: "Oh, how sweet was the first kiss that Jesus gave my soul!... it was a kiss of love, I felt loved and I said in my turn: "I love you, I give myself to you for ever" ... Therese had disappeared like a drop of water lost within the ocean. There remained only Jesus: the master, the King" (Therese of Lisieux, Story of a Soul). And she began to weep with joy and consolation, to the amazement of her companions.

Jesus is present in the Eucharist so as to be encountered, loved, received, consoled. Wherever there is the priest, Jesus is present, because the mission and greatness of the Priest is precisely the celebration of Holy Mass.

Jesus is present in large cities and in little villages, in mountain churches and in the distant huts of Africa and Asia, in hospitals and prisons; Jesus in the Eucharist was even present in the concentration camps!

Dear children! Receive Jesus often! Abide in him; let yourselves be transformed by him!

2. Jesus is your greatest Friend. This is the second thought.

Never forget it! Jesus wants to be our closest friend, our companion on the road.

Certainly you have many friends; but you cannot always stay with them and they cannot always help you, listen to you, console you. Jesus instead is the friend who never abandons you; Jesus knows you one by one, personally; He knows your name, He follows you, He accompanies you, He walks with you every day; He participates in your joys and consoles you in moments of grief and sadness. Jesus is the friend with whom we can no longer do without, when one has met him and understood that He loves us and wants our love.

With him you can speak, confide; to him you can turn with affection and confidence. Jesus even died on the Cross for our love! Make a pact of friendship with Jesus and never break it! In all the situations of your life, turn to the Divine Friend, present in us with his "grace", present with us and in us in the Eucharist.

And be also the messengers and joyful witnesses of the Friend Jesus in your families, among your companions, in the places where you play and spend your holidays, in this modern society, so often so sad and dissatisfied.

3 Jesus is waiting for us. This is the last thought.

Life, long or short, is a journey towards paradise: there is our Homeland/fatherland, there is our true home; there is our rendezvous!

Jesus is waiting for us in paradise! Never forget this supreme and comforting truth. And what is Holy Communion if not a paradise anticipated? In fact, in the Eucharist it is the same Jesus who is waiting for us and whom we will meet one day openly in heaven.

Receive Jesus often so as never to forget paradise, so as to be always marching towards the house of the Heavenly Father, so as to enjoy paradise a little already!

This had been understood by Domenico Savio, who at the age of seven got permission to receive his First Communion, and on that day wrote his resolutions: "First: I will confess very often and I will receive Communion all the times that the confessor will give me permission. Second: I want to sanctify feast days. Third: my friends will be Jesus and Mary. Fourth: death but not sins."

That which little Domenico wrote so many years ago (in 1849) still holds good now and will do for ever.

Dearest, I conclude by saying to you, boys and girls, keep yourselves worthy of Jesus whom you receive! Be innocent and generous! Undertake to render life beautiful for everyone with obedience, with kindness, with good education! The secret of joy is goodness!

And to you, parents and relatives, I say anxiously and confidently: love your children, respect them, edify them! Be worthy of their innocence and of the mystery enclosed in their soul, created directly by God! They need love, delicacy, a good example, maturity! Do not neglect them! Do not betray them!

I entrust you all to Mary Most Holy, our Mother in heaven, the Star of the sea of our life: pray to her every day, you children! Give to her, Mary Most Holy, your hand so that she may lead you to receive Jesus in a holy way.

And let us also address a thought of affection and solidarity to all suffering children, to all children who cannot receive Jesus because they do not know him, to all parents who have been painfully deprived of their children or are disappointed and bitter in their expectations.

In your encounter with Jesus pray for everyone, commend everyone, invoke grace and help for everyone!

And pray also for me, you who are my favourites!

Papa San Giovanni Paolo II's words at the Angelus
Sunday 17 June 1979 - also in French, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. "Et Verbum caro factum est et habitavit in nobis".

Today we wish to adore in a particular way the Divine Body, which became the Blessed Sacrament of our faith and of the whole life of the Church. This is the day of public cult of the Eucharist. The expression of this cult, accepted for whole centuries, is the procession: a religious procession led by the High Priest and, at the same time, the Most Holy Sacrifice, who invites us to follow him.

Let us remember that the place of Christ's presence on earth was not only the cenacle in Jerusalem, but also city roads and country ways. Everywhere people gathered before him. They gathered together to be able to be with him, to listen to him.

In the solemnity of Corpus Christi is renewed this particular presence of Christ on the streets, squares, and ways. He speaks to us who have gathered, not with the living words of the Gospel, as he once did, but with the eloquent silence of the Eucharist.

In this silence of the white Host, carried in the ostensory, are all his words; there is his whole life given in offering to the Father for each of us; there is also the glory of the glorified body, which started with the resurrection, and still continues in heavenly union.

Let us seek to participate in the public cult of Corpus Christi so that the mystery of Christ may penetrate our whole life even more deeply.

2. Tomorrow, Monday 18 June, the second Agreement, called Salt II, on the limitation of strategic armaments, will be signed at Vienna by the major nuclear powers. The agreement is not yet a reduction of armaments or, as would be desirable, a provision for disarmament. But that does not mean that the measures laid down are not a sign, which we must hail with satisfaction, of the desire to continue a dialogue, without which all hope of working effectively for peace could vanish.

Believers, and men of goodwill, who feel it an imperative of conscience to commit themselves as "peacemakers", cannot ignore the importance of everything that fosters an atmosphere of détente, propitious to encourage other and indispensable steps forward along the way to the limitation and reduction of armaments.

Together with you, I pray to the Lord, who wished to give us in the Holy Eucharist a pledge not only of future glory but of peace and brotherly communion on this earth, to bring about the progress of the great cause of the renunciation of arms and the continuation of honest, stable, and effective agreements; a premise to the strengthening of concord and to more just relations among peoples. In this perspective of hope, the Vienna meeting is an event which cannot but be at the centre of our prayer.

3. I think now with deep sadness of the painful ordeal to which the helpless population of Nicaragua has been subjected for some time: this dear and tormented land, from which tragic news continues to arrive, testifying to the prevalence of hatred over love, of violence over the spirit of concord and brotherhood.

To prayer for the souls of the victims of such a cruel situation, let us unite fervent imploration to God to illuminate the minds of those on whom responsibility for the atrocious conflict weighs heaviest, to instil courage in all those who, though living in danger and difficulties, have the duty of opening the hearts of all to hope, and to give the whole people of Nicaragua better days in refound peace and brotherhood.

4. Finally, on this Sunday meeting of ours for the recitation of the Angelus, I recall again with great emotion my recent journey in Poland: it was a pilgrimage of faith, which I lived intensely and which the Polish people also lived intensely with me. I prayed for the Church, for Humanity, for you, in the places sacred to the religious history of my country of origin, and I entrusted the Church, Humanity and you to Our Lady of Jasna Gora. At this moment I wish to address a special thought of satisfaction and gratitude to all those Bishops and faithful who, from various parts of the world, carried out this extra­ordinary pilgrimage with the Pope, as well as all those who would have liked to be present, but were not able for various reasons, and accompanied the Pilgrim Pope with their fervent prayer and hidden sacrifices.

My sincere and hearty thanks to everyone!"

San Juan Pablo II's homily at Mass in the Basilica of St John Lateran
Solemnity of Corpus Christi in Italy, Sunday 17 June 1979 - also in French, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Beloved Brothers and Sisters!
1. Let my words be brief today. Let the feast itself, the Eucharist itself, speak to us, instead, in the fullness of its liturgical expression.

We are about to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of Mass on the parvis of the Basilica of St John Lateran, cathedral of the Bishop of Rome. After this we will proceed in procession to the Basilica of St Mary Major on the Esquiline.

In this way we wish to put together, in one liturgical act, the worship of the Sacrifice and the worship of adoration, as today's solemnity and the centuries old tradition of the Church demand of us.

2. We wish to proclaim to Rome and the world the Eucharist, that is, gratitude. This Sacrament is the sign of the gratitude of the whole of creation for the Creator's visit. This Sacrament is the sign of man's gratitude because the Creator became a creature; because God became Man, because "he took a human body from his Mother Mary Immaculate" to raise us men again to the Father; to make us Sons of God.

We wish, therefore, to proclaim and sing with our mouths and still more to avow with our human hearts gratitude for the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of God, with which He nourishes our souls and renews our human hearts.

3. We desire furthermore to announce to the City (Urbe) and to the world (Orbe) the Eucharist as the sign of the covenant that God concluded irreversibly with man by means of the Body and Blood of his Son.

This Body was exposed to the passion and death. It shared the earthly fate of man after original sin. This Blood was shed to seal God's new covenant with man: the covenant of grace and love, the covenant of holiness and truth. We are participants in this covenant even more than the People of God of the old law. Today therefore we wish to bear witness before all men.

for all men God became man. For everyone Christ died and rose again. Everyone, finally, has been called to the banquet of eternity. And here on earth the Lord God invites each one saying: "Take and eat... Take and drink!... in order not to stop on the road!"

4. Finally, we desire to announce to the City and to the world the Eucharist as sign of the adoration due to God alone. How admirable is our God! He whom no intellect is able to embrace and worship in accordance with his holiness. He whom no heart is able to love in accordance with his love.

How wondrous He is when He wants us to embrace him, love him and adore him, according to the human dimension of our faith, under the species of Bread and Wine!

5. Christ in the Eucharist, accept this expression of adoration and love which the Church renders to you by means of the ministry of the Bishop of Rome, successor of Peter. Be adored through the memory of all my Predecessors, who have worshipped you before the eyes of the City and of the World.

At the end of today's liturgy, let your Holy Mother who gave you, Eternal Son of the Father, a human body receive you from our hands on the forecourt of her temple: "Ave, verum corpus, / natum ex / Maria Virgine, / Vere passum immolatum / in cruce pro homine; / esto nobis praegustatum / mortis in examine!" (Hail, oh true Body, born of the Virgin Mary, which really suffered and was sacrificed on the Cross for Mankind; may you be foretasted by us when the test of death arrives!)  Amen.