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As you know, what is normally the interview segment of Vatican Insider has been changed over recent months because of the COVID-19 crisis and restrictions imposed on and by people for in person interviews – at least up to now. I’ve thus filled this segment with Specials I’ve prepared for you, including visits to what are known as the Seven Pilgrim Basilica of Rome.

So far, I’ve explored five of those seven basilicas – the four papal basilicas of St. Peter’s, St, John Lateran,. St. Mary Major and St. Paul’s Outside the walls and last week we went to Holy Cross in Jerusalem. This weekend I take you to San Lorenzo – San Lawrence Outside the Walls. This is truly a not-to-miss church when you are in Rome so when you return to the Eternal City, you’ll have this podcast as your guide to St. Lawrence.

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On Tuesday, June 9, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis has set up a fund to help families in Rome who have lost their livelihoods and are in economic difficulty due to the Covid-19 crisis. In a letter addressed to Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, vicar general of the Diocese of Rome, Francis wrote: “As bishop of Rome I have decided to establish the ‘Jesus the Divine Worker Fund’ to reaffirm the dignity of work, with an initial allocation of one million euros.”

He explained the Fund aims to support those “who risk being excluded from institutional protection and who need support until they can walk again unaccompanied…. My thoughts go “to the great number of daily and occasional workers, to those with fixed-term contracts that have not been renewed, to those who are paid by the hour, to interns, domestic workers, small entrepreneurs, self-employed workers, especially those in sectors most affected [by the pandemic] and their related industries.”

That fund was officially presented this morning, Friday, June 12, at 11am in the Sala degli Imperatori of the Lateran Apostolic Palace in the presence of Cardinal de Donatis, the president of the Lazio Region Nicola Zingaretti and Rome mayor Virginia Raggi. Raggi has pledged an additional €500,000.


The feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, known in many countries as Corpus Christi or Corpus Domini, is a holiday in the Vatican and only one public event is usually on the papal schedule on this day – an evening Mass and procession to celebrate this feast which commemorates the Real Presence of Christ – Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity – in the Eucharist.

This annual celebration here in Rome traditionally starts with Mass at 7 p.m. in the square outside the Pope’s cathedral church of St. John Lateran, a procession with the Blessed Sacrament down Via Merulana to St. Mary Major Basilica and a blessing of the crowd gathered at this Marian basilica. This tradition has always taken place on a Thursday. (photos: Vatican, CNS, AP, Getty)

From 2013 to through 2017 Pope Francis celebrated Mass at St. John Lateran, joined the Eucharistic procession to St. Mary Major and blessed the faithful there. In 2018, he celebrated this feast in a parish in Ostia, a seaside town, and in 2019 he marked Corpus Christi in Casal Bertone.

In 2017, in what was seen as an unprecedented change, Francis announced that the traditional Roman Corpus Christi procession that has taken place for decades on a Thursday would henceforth be celebrated on Sunday.

It is on a Thursday, Holy Thursday, that the Church celebrates the institution of the Eucharist

This year, however, 2020, because of the restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass on Sunday, June 14, at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica at 9:45 am in the presence of about 50 faithful.

Via Merulana, originally called Via Gregoriana, was laid out by Pope Gregory XIII during the Holy Year 1575. There is a Via Gregoriana in Rome today but it is located near the famed Spanish Steps. Among Pope Gregory’s achievements: He reformed the calendar, founded the papal observatory, as well as several colleges and seminaries, including the Gregorian University, and built the Quirinale Palace, for years the summer residence of Popes and now home to the president of Italy.

Pope Benedict XVI celebrates the Corpus Domini Mass

The procession between the two Roman basilicas began in the 1400’s. Its current itinerary began in 1575 when Pope Gregory XIII built the street that links the two churches and was originally named Via Gregorian, now called Via Merulana. This route was followed for more than 300 years until the procession fell into disuse until 1979 when St. John Paul revived the custom, He processed the distance on foot every year except 1981, after the attack on his life in St. Peter’s Square, and 1994 following hip surgery. Starting in 1995 he rode in an open, canopy-covered vehicle, seated before a small altar bearing the monstrance and host.

The feast of Corpus Christi is due in part to the visions of a 13th century Augustinian nun, Julianna of Lièges, known for her devotion to the Eucharist. In one vision, Our Lord appeared to her, reminding her there was no solemnity honoring the Blessed Sacrament and she began to promote such a feast. Pope Urban IV, who also wished to honor the Eucharist, wrote a Bull in 1264 in which he spoke of the love of Our Lord and Savior as expressed in the Holy Eucharist, ordering Corpus Christi to be celebrated annually on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday. Indulgences could be gained, he wrote, by attendance at Mass and reciting the Office composed at Urban’s request by St. Thomas Aquinas, which many say is the most beautiful office of the breviary.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, about this same time in history – which was a period of infrequent communion – the elevation of the chalice and host came into being at Mass as well as placing the host in a monstrance for Eucharistic adoration. Corpus Christi is a moveable feast and in some countries is observed on the first Sunday following Trinity Sunday.

I am often asked: What is the difference between a solemnity and a feast day in the Church? Liturgy is, of course, the Church’s public worship and includes all rites and ceremonies by means of which the Church expresses her worship of God. The principal acts of liturgy that would immediately come to mind to all of us would be the seven sacraments, called sacramental liturgies.

There are also categories of liturgical days. The three technical categories are, in descending order: Solemnity, Feast and Memorial.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, a feast is “technically, one category of liturgical day, a lesser rank than ‘solemnity’ and a higher rank than ‘memorial’. In popular usage, however, ‘feast’ is applied indiscriminately by the faithful to all liturgical days on which the Church commemorates a mystery of Our Lord or Our Lady, or keeps the memory of a saint.” Thus, these days mark an event in the life of Jesus or Mary or a saint. The Vatican is very careful to make the distinction between solemnity, feast or memorial: Corpus Christi is a solemnity.

Often the observance starts on the vigil, that is, the evening prior to the actual date. Many solemnities occur on fixed dates such as January 1 – Mother of God; January 6 – Epiphany; March 25 – the Annunciation; June 29 – Sts. Peter and Paul; August 15 – the Assumption; and December 8 – the Immaculate Conception. Others are movable dates: Easter, the Ascension, Pentecost and Corpus Christi.

A memorial refers to the so-called lowest type of feast found in the Church’s liturgical calendar. There is the obligatory memorial that must be celebrated and the optional memorial that is celebrated at Mass at the priest’s discretion. May 10th was, for example, an optional memorial of Saint Damien de Veuster of Molokai, the priest who treated lepers.