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Pope Francis moves Corpus Christi procession to Sunday

Pope Francis leads Benediction outside the Basilica of St Mary Major on the feast of Corpus Christi in Rome (Photo: CNS)

Pope Francis is to celebrate Corpus Christi on Sunday rather than Thursday next month.

Greg Burke, director of the Vatican press office, said the Pope had decided to postpone the celebration next month from June 15 to June 18.

He said a Sunday procession would be easier for people to attend and would also cause less inconvenience in Rome.

Pope Francis made the decision, he said, “in favour of a better participation of the People of God, of priests and of the faithful of the Church in Rome.” He added: “There is a second reason: Thursday is a weekday and so there will be less inconvenience in Rome.”

Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the papal vicar of Rome, said celebrating the feast on Sunday “can strengthen the participation of the faithful in this solemn, public act of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament”.

Corpus Christi celebrates the belief in the body and blood of Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist. In Rome a candlelit procession travels just over a mile from the Basilica of St John Lateran to the Basilica of St Mary Major.

In the rest of Italy and in countries such as Britain and the United States, the feast is already celebrated on the Sunday, but until now the Vatican has kept the traditional observance.

The Bishops of England and Wales transferred the feasts of Corpus Christi, Ascension and Epiphany to the Sunday in 2006.

Former Catholic Herald editor William Oddie described it at the time as an “impoverishment of the spiritual life of the English Church” and a “surrender to the secular age”.