Bookmark and Share

Solemnity of Corpus Christi in the Jubilee 2000

Pope Saint John Paul II's Homily at Mass
during the Jubilee Eucharistic Congress at the Basilica of St John Lateran
before Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament & a Eucharistic Procession to the Basilica of St Mary Major Thursday, 22 June 2000 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. The institution of the Eucharist, the sacrifice of Melchizedek and the multiplication of the loaves: this is the evocative triptych which the liturgy of the Word presents to us today on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi.

In the centre is the institution of the Eucharist. St Paul, in his First Letter to the Corinthians which we have just heard, recalled the event in precise words, adding:  "As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes" (1 Cor 11, 26). "As often", hence this evening too, as we celebrate the Eucharist in the heart of the International Eucharistic Congress, we proclaim Christ's redemptive death and in our hearts rekindle the hope of our definitive encounter with him.

Conscious of this, we will acclaim after the consecration, as if in response to the Apostle's invitation: "When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death, Lord Jesus, until you come in glory."

2. Our gaze expands to include the other elements of the biblical triptych displayed for our meditation today: the sacrifice of Melchizedek and the multiplication of the loaves.

The first account, very short but of great importance, comes from the Book of Genesis and was proclaimed in the first reading. It tells us of Melchizedek, "king of Salem" and "priest of God Most High", who blessed Abram and "brought out bread and wine" (Gn 14, 18). Psalm 109 refers to this passage, attributing to the Messiah-King an extraordinary priestly character that God has directly conferred on him: "You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek" (Ps 109, 4).

The day before his death on the Cross, Christ instituted the Eucharist in the Upper Room. He also offered bread and wine, which "in his sacred hands" (Roman Canon) became his Body and his Blood, offered in sacrifice. Thus he fulfilled the prophecy of the old covenant linked to Melchizedek's sacrificial offering. For this very reason - the Letter to the Hebrews recalls - "he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek" (5, 7-10).

The sacrifice of Golgotha was anticipated in the Upper Room: the death on the Cross of the Incarnate Word, the Lamb sacrificed for us, the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. In Christ's pain every person's pain is redeemed; in his passion, human suffering acquires new value; in his death, our death is vanquished forever.

3. Let us now turn our gaze to the Gospel account of the multiplication of the loaves, which completes the Eucharistic triptych brought to our attention today. In the liturgical setting of Corpus Christi, this passage from the Evangelist Luke helps us to understand better the gift and mystery of the Eucharist.

Jesus took the five loaves and the two fish, raised his eyes to heaven, blessed them, broke them and gave them to the Apostles to distribute to the crowd (cf Lk 9, 16). "Everyone", St Luke remarks, "ate and were satisfied. And they took up what was left over, twelve baskets of broken pieces" (cf ibid v 17).

This is an amazing miracle which marks in a way the beginning of a long historical process: the uninterrupted multiplication in the Church of the Bread of new life for the people of every race and culture. This sacramental ministry is entrusted to the Apostles and to their successors. And they, faithful to the divine Master's command, never cease to break and distribute the Eucharistic bread from generation to generation.

The People of God receive it with devout participation. With this Bread of life, a remedy of immortality, countless saints and martyrs were nourished and from it drew the strength to resist even harsh and prolonged sufferings. They believed in the words that Jesus once spoke in Capernaum: "I myself am the living bread come down from heaven. If any one eats this bread, he will live forever" (Jn 6, 51).

4. "I myself am the living bread come down from heaven!"

After contemplating the extraordinary Eucharistic "triptych" made up of today's readings, let us now turn our mind's eye directly to the mystery. Jesus calls himself "the Bread of life", adding: "The bread I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world" (Jn 6, 51).

The mystery of our salvation! Christ - the one Lord yesterday, today and for ever - wanted his saving presence in the world and in history to be linked with the sacrament of the Eucharist. He wanted to make himself the bread which is broken so that everyone can be nourished by his very life through participation in the Sacrament of his Body and Blood.

Like the disciples who listened in astonishment to his discourse at Capernaum, we also find this language hard to understand (cf Jn 6, 60). We might sometimes be tempted to give it a reductive interpretation. But this would take us far from Christ, as was the case with those disciples who "after that no longer went about with him" (Jn 6, 66).

We would like to stay with Christ and for this reason we say to him with Peter: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (Jn 6, 68). With the same conviction as Peter, let us kneel today before the sacrament of the altar and renew our profession of faith in the real presence of Christ.

This is the meaning of today's celebration, which is given special emphasis by the International Eucharistic Congress in the year of the Great Jubilee. This is also the sense of the solemn procession which, as it does every year, will shortly make its way from this square to the Basilica of St Mary Major.

With humble pride we will escort the Eucharistic Sacrament through the streets of the city, close by the buildings where people live, rejoice and suffer; between the shops and offices where they work each day. We will bring it into contact with our lives beset by a thousand dangers, weighed down by worries and sorrows, subject to the slow but inexorable wear and tear of time.

As we escort him, we will offer him the tribute of our hymns and prayers:  "Bone Pastor, panis vere ... True Bread, Good Shepherd, tend us", we will say to him with trust, "Jesus, of your love befriend us, / You refresh us, you defend us, / Your eternal goodness send us.

"You who all things can and know, / Who on earth such food bestow, / Grant us with your saints, though lowest, / Where the heavenly feast you show, / Fellow heirs and guests to be".


Papa San Giovanni Paolo's words at the Angelus in St Peter's Square
Sunday, 25 June 2000 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dearest Brothers and Sisters!
1. This evening the International Eucharistic Congress, which for the past week has made Rome the city of the Eucharist, will close with the solemn celebration of the Statio Orbis in St Peter's Square.

In basilicas and parishes, in monasteries and many other places of worship, there have been numerous liturgical celebrations, but also moments of adoration, and a great number of people have paused to pray before the presence of Christ in the Sacrament of the Altar. We can say that the entire Church, in a sense, has gathered here in Rome to remain in the Upper Room, listening and contemplating the Eucharist.

2. Christ is the Bread of salvation for man, a wayfarer and pilgrim on earth. This is why on the feast of Corpus Christi the Eucharist is carried in procession through the streets, among the homes and buildings of daily life. In the Eucharistic mystery the Risen One, in fact, has wished to continue dwelling in our midst, so that every human being can know his true name, his true face, and experience his boundless mercy.

We firmly believe that Christ is the only Saviour of the world. He is the Mediator of the new and eternal Covenant (cf Heb 9, 15), which fulfilled the Covenant God made on Sinai with the chosen people. It is a Covenant open to all peoples, in view of the great eschatological banquet foretold by the prophets of Israel. In the light of this truth, the Church does not scorn what human beings do in their various religious expressions to approach God and to be purified by him; instead she encourages fruitful interreligious dialogue. At the same time, however, she cannot fail to state clearly that Christ is the only Redeemer, the Son of God, who became incarnate for us, died and rose again.

3. In the mystery of the Eucharist Christ wished to remain with us by becoming our saving food and drink. The theme of the International Eucharistic Congress stresses this well: Jesus Christ, the only Saviour of the world, Bread for new life.

Let us entrust to Mary Most Holy the fruits borne during these days of reflection and prayer. From this moment we also entrust to her the next International Eucharistic Congress, which, God willing, will be celebrated in 2004 in Guadalajara, Mexico. May Mary, who lived in intimate and constant communion with Jesus, the Word made flesh, help every Christian to recognize in the Eucharist the living presence of her divine Son, to receive him with faith and to call upon him with love.

Invigorated by the Eucharistic Bread, no Christian will hesitate to serve his brothers and sisters, in order to build a new, more just and fraternal humanity."

Pope Saint John Paul II's homily at Statio Orbis
at the Conclusion of the XLVII International Eucharistic Congress at the Basilica of St John Lateran
Sunday 25 June 2000 - also in French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. "Take; this is my body.... This is my blood" (Mk 14: 22-23).

These words spoken by Jesus at the Last Supper ring out today in our assembly, as we prepare to close the International Eucharistic Congress. They resound with unusual intensity, as a renewed command: "Take!".

Christ entrusts to us his Body given and his Blood poured out. He entrusts them to us as he did to the Apostles in the Upper Room before the supreme sacrifice on Golgotha. Peter and the others at the table were astonished and deeply moved at these words. But could they understand at the time how far these words would take them?

At that moment the promise Jesus had made at the synagogue in Capernaum was fulfilled: "I am the bread of life.... the bread I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world" (Jn 6: 48, 51). The promise was fulfilled on the very eve of the Passion in which Jesus would offer himself for humanity's salvation.

2. "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many" (Mk 14: 24).

In the Cenacle Jesus speaks of covenant. It is a term which the Apostles have no difficulty in understanding, since they belong to the people with whom Yahweh, as the first reading tells us, had made the old covenant during the exodus from Egypt (cf. Ex 19-24). They vividly remember Mount Sinai and Moses, who had come down from that mountain carrying the divine Law engraved on two stone tablets.

They did not forget that Moses had taken the "book of the covenant" and read it aloud; and the people had agreed, saying: "All the Lord has said, we will heed and do" (ibid., 24: 7). Thus a covenant was made between God and his people, sealed with the blood of animals offered in sacrifice. For this reason Moses had sprinkled the people, saying: "This is the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words of his" (ibid., 24: 8).

The Apostles, then, understood the reference to the old covenant. But what did they understand of the new? Certainly very little. The Holy Spirit will have to descend to open their minds: then they will understand the full sense of Jesus' words. They will understand and rejoice.

We heard a clear echo of this joy in the words proclaimed a few moments ago from the Letter to the Hebrews: "If the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ!" (9: 13-14). And the author of the Letter concludes: "Therefore Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance" (9: 15).

3. "This is the cup of my blood". On Holy Thursday evening the Apostles reached the threshold of the great mystery. When, at the end of the supper, they went out with him to the Garden of Olives, they could not know yet that the words he had pronounced over the bread and the cup would be dramatically fulfilled the following day, in the hour of the Cross. Perhaps not even on the tremendous and glorious day that the Church calls feria sexta in parasceve - Good Friday - did they realize that what Jesus had handed on to them under the appearances of bread and wine contained the paschal reality.

There is an illuminating passage in the Gospel of Luke. Speaking of the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, the Evangelist notes their disappointment: "We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel" (Lk 24: 21). The other disciples must have also shared this sentiment before meeting the risen Christ. Only after the resurrection did they begin to understand that human redemption had been achieved in Christ's Passover. The Holy Spirit will later guide them into the full truth by revealing to them that the Crucified One had given his body and poured out his blood as a sacrifice of expiation for the sins of human beings, for the sins of the whole world (cf. 1 Jn 2: 2).

The author of the Letter to the Hebrews again offers us a clear synthesis of the mystery: "Christ ... entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption" (Heb 9: 11-12).

4. Today we affirm this truth at the Statio Orbis of this International Eucharistic Congress, as, in obedience to Christ's command, we do again "in his memory" what he did in the Upper Room on the eve of his Passion.

"Take; this is my body.... This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many" (Mk 12: 22, 24). From this square we want to repeat to the men and women of the third millennium the extraordinary message: the Son of God became man for us and offered himself in sacrifice for our salvation. He gives us his body and blood as the food of a new life, of a divine life that is no longer subject to death.

With emotion we once again receive from Christ's hands this gift, so that through us it may reach every family and every city, places of suffering and the workshops of hope in our time. The Eucharist is the infinite gift of love: under the signs of bread and wine we acknowledge and adore the one perfect sacrifice of Christ offered for our salvation and that of all humanity. The Eucharist is really "the mystery that sums up all the marvels wrought by God for our salvation" (cf. St Thomas Aquinas, De sacr. Euch., chap. I).

In the Cenacle the Church's Eucharistic faith was born and is continually reborn. As the Eucharistic Congress now draws to a close, we want to return spiritually to these origins, to the moment of the Upper Room and of Golgotha, to give thanks for the gift of the Eucharist, the priceless gift that Christ left us, the gift by which the Church lives.

5. Our liturgical assembly will soon disperse, enriched by the presence of faithful from every part of the world and made even more attractive by this extraordinary floral display. I greet you all with affection and cordially thank everyone!

Let us leave this gathering reinvigorated in our apostolic and missionary commitment. May participation in the Eucharist make you, the sick, more patient in your trials; you, married couples, more faithful in your love; you, consecrated persons, more persevering in your holy intentions; you, First Communion children, and especially you, dear young people, who are preparing to take personal responsibility for the future, stronger and more generous. From this Statio Orbis my thoughts are already looking ahead to the solemn Eucharistic celebration that will close the World Youth Day. I say to you, young people of Rome, Italy and the world: carefully prepare yourselves for this international youth gathering, in which you will be called to take up the challenges of the new millennium.

6. And you, Christ our Lord, who "in this great sacrament feed your people and strengthen them in holiness, so that the family of mankind may come to walk in the light of one faith, in one communion of love" (Preface of the Holy Eucharist II), always make your Church more steadfast and united, as she celebrates the mystery of your saving presence.

Pour out your Spirit upon all who approach your sacred Table and make them bolder in bearing witness to the commandment of your love, so that the world may believe in you, who one day said: "I myself am the living bread come down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread, he shall live" (Jn 6: 51).

You, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Virgin Mary, are man's only Saviour, "yesterday, today and for ever"! We believe in You, save us! Amen!"

At the end of Mass the Holy Father greeted the pilgrims in various languages:

"Au terme du Congrès Eucharistique international de l'année jubilaire, je salue toutes les personnes de langue française. Que cette Eucharistie, mystère de la foi qui s'offre à l'humanité comme source de vie divine, soit toujours pour vous le cœur de votre existence! Qu'elle renouvelle vos forces pour que vous puissiez annoncer l'Évangile dans la joie et en témoigner avec fidélité!

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims who have joined in our prayer of thanksgiving at this closing Mass of the International Eucharistic Congress. May the continuing celebration of the Great Jubilee ever increase the awareness and appreciation of the Lords saving presence in your midst. Upon all of you I invoke the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Herzlich grüße ich die Pilger deutscher Sprache, die am Eucharistischen Weltkongreß teilnehmen wollten. Liebe Schwestern und Brüder! Heute ist "Statio in Orbem". Morgen soll daraus eine "Missio Orbis" werden, eine Sendung in die ganze Welt. Möge die Feier und Anbetung der Eucharistie Brot und Speise sein für Euren weiteren Weg!

Saludo muy cordialmente a los Pastores y fieles de lengua española que han participado en esta celebración, así como a cuantos se han unido a ella espiritualmente. El próximo Congreso Eucarístico Internacional que tendrá lugar en México es un motivo más para acrecentar la devoción a Jesús Sacramentado en vuestros países y vivificar en torno a la Eucaristía el compromiso cristiano en vuestras comunidades eclesiales.

Saúdo os delegados e peregrinos de língua portuguesa: Vós sois agora como um cesto de Deus cheio do Pão que desceu do Céu para a vida do mundo. Ide! Levai este pão aos vossos irmãos famintos: é o remédio de imortalidade que eles esperam. Ide! Reparti sem medo que acabe, porque temos a promessa de que o Pão não se esgotará no cesto, antes, multiplicar-se-á à força de o repartirdes.

Na zakonczenie tej Statio Orbis Miedzynarodowego Kongresu Eucharystycznego w Roku Jubileuszowym pragne pozdrowic wszystkich moich Rodaków, którzy przybyli do Rzymu, aby uczestniczyc w tym niezwyklym wydarzeniu. Prosze Boga, aby ten blogoslawiony czas laski przynosil w Waszych duszach owoce wiary, nadziei i milosci. Badcie apostolami Chrystusa obecnego w Eucharystii! Niescie oredzie o Jego milosci wszystkim Polakom! Niech Wam Bóg blogoslawi

Rivolgo, ora, il mio saluto cordiale ai numerosi pellegrini di lingua italiana, che hanno preso parte a questa solenne conclusione del Congresso Eucaristico Internazionale. Auguro a ciascuno di trarre da questa esperienza la spinta ad approfondire la personale devozione all'Eucaristia, pane di vita che accompagna i singoli e la Chiesa lungo il pellegrinaggio nel tempo verso la Patria eterna. Desidero, in particolare, rinnovare il mio ringraziamento al Signor Cardinale Vicario, ai Vescovi Ausiliari, ai sacerdoti, ai consacrati e alle consacrate ed ai numerosissimi laici della Diocesi di Roma, che si sono prodigati generosamente per l'ordinato svolgimento del Congresso. Su di loro e su tutti i presenti scendano copiose le grazie divine, avvalorate dalla mia Benedizione.

Lastly, I would especially like to thank the many Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops from around the world. This week we have felt united with the Person of Christ as the Apostles were in the Upper Room. Bring my heartfelt greeting and my Blessing to your faithful. A thousand thanks again to everyone!"