During his April 22 Regina Coeli address, Pope Benedict XVI said adults should bring reverence and love to the task of preparing children to receive their first Holy Communion.
“Dear friends, the Church at Easter time usually administers First Communion to children,” he noted in the midday address. “I therefore urge the pastors, parents and catechists to prepare this feast of faith well, with great fervor, but also with sobriety.”
Among the large crowd gathered in the sunshine of St. Peter's Square were thousands of Italian children who will make their first Holy Communion in the coming weeks. As Pope Benedict addressed them, the young pilgrims cheered and released hundreds of colored balloons into the Roman sky.
The Pope told them their First Communion would mark “the moment when you too understand the importance of a personal encounter with Jesus.”
Christ promised the Church his continued presence in “the Word and the Eucharist,” the Pope said.
“Therefore, just as the disciples of Emmaus recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread, so we meet the Lord in the Eucharistic celebration.”
Pope Benedict also spoke about the Scripture readings for the third Sunday of Easter. He noted that the disciples were “incredulous and frightened” when they first saw the risen Christ, initially mistaking him for a ghost.
In response, Jesus showed his hands and feet which displayed the marks of the crucifixion. He also asked for food, and received a piece of baked fish.
Pope Benedict explained that these “very realistic signs” helped the disciples “open up to the gift of faith” – which in turn helped them “understand the things written on Christ ‘in the law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms’.”
The Pope reserved his final words for the children in St Peter’s Square, before leading the recitation of the midday Marian prayer.
“May the Mother of God help us to listen attentively to the Word of the Lord and participate worthily in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, to become witnesses of the new humanity,” he declared.