.- Thousands of Catholic churches around the world celebrated the Solemnity of Corpus Christi this weekend. Feast-day celebrations, which usually include a mass, procession, adoration and benediction, were organized as small parish-based events and large diocesan-wide public manifestations of faith.
About 10,000 people of all ages, races and cultures took to the streets of Sydney, Australia, bringing the city core to a halt. Holding a monstrance - a vessel that displays the Eucharist - Archbishop George Pell led the faithful from St Patrick's Cathedral in the city's north to St Mary's Cathedral near Hyde Park. The feast of Corpus Christi is the celebration of the Body and Blood of Christ, present in the Eucharist.
"This is the centre and pinnacle of our faith and today's celebration is one of the grandest for the Catholic Church," organizer Stephen Rawson told the AAP. "Today means we can get out and show Sydney what we believe in."
The procession was only the second of its kind in Sydney. It will be held annually until World Youth Day in 2008.
In Moscow, Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz led about 600 Roman Catholic faithful through the streets of the capital city. Celebrations began with Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
The archbishop urged the faithful not to take Christ's Body and Blood as a "silent symbol", but as "a remedy for changing and transforming our life."
Catholics carried banners and large icons, decorated with flowers. They were followed by the clergy clad in gold-embroidered vestments and by girls wearing white dresses, who dropped rose petals before the monstrance, carried by the archbishop. Bells were rung and believers sang throughout the procession, which was punctuated by readings of the Gospel.
In Montreal, about 2,000 people gathered for the diocesan celebration of Corpus Christi on June 15th. During the Thursday evening mass, Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte told the standing-room only crowd at Notre-Dame Basilica, that the Eucharist must be rediscovered as a gift from God. Prior to the mass, about 300 young people gathered for pizza and a catechesis on the Eucharist with Auxiliary Bishop Anthony Mancini.
A special element of the feast-day celebrations in Montreal was the Ark of the New Covenant, a wooden chest decorated with Eucharistic images. It was blessed by Pope Benedict XVI in May and is being used as a symbol to gather people together in prayer in preparation for the International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec City in 2008. It is expected to visit every diocese in Canada and was in Montreal for the feast of Corpus Christi.
The 40-kilogram ark, which had a monstrance attached on the top of it, was held by young priests and covered by a white canopy, held by seminarians. It led the procession through the downtown streets, followed immediately by the cardinal-archbishop, about 50 clergy and nearly 2,000 faithful. The procession ended at St. Patrick’s Basilica with adoration and benediction. The people prayed that the 2008 congress will renew the faith in Canada.
In Shreveport, Louisiana dozens of Catholics joined a procession from the Catholic Center to St. John Berchmans Cathedral Saturday morning. The celebrations included a monstrance blessed by Pope John Paul II, which was in Shreveport as part of a national tour.