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Catholics in Poland celebrate Corpus Christi amid coronavirus restrictions

A Corpus Christi procession in Poznań, Poland, June 3, 2021. Credit: Archdiocese of Poznań. A Corpus Christi procession in Poznań, Poland, June 3, 2021. Credit: Archdiocese of Poznań.

Catholics took part in Corpus Christi processions across Poland Thursday. 

People took to the streets June 3 wearing face coverings and following local coronavirus restrictions to celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi, observed on the Thursday after the octave of Pentecost.

Prostyń, Poland. / Fr. Maciej Domanszczynski.
Prostyń, Poland. / Fr. Maciej Domanszczynski.

Following Polish tradition, girls who had recently made their first Holy Communions scattered rose petals before the Blessed Sacrament, which was carried by a priest under a processional canopy.

Celebrating Corpus Christi in Poznań, bishops’ conference president Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki said that “no Christian community can overcome loneliness and create community if it does not have its root and basis in the celebration of the Eucharist.”

Corpus Christi at Częstochowa, Poland. / @JasnaGoraNews.
Corpus Christi at Częstochowa, Poland. / @JasnaGoraNews.

Bishop Andrzej Przybylski, an auxiliary bishop of Częstochowa, celebrated an outdoor Mass at Jasna Góra, home to the revered icon of the Black Madonna of Częstochowa.

“The greatest treasure of Jasna Góra Shrine is not this wonderful and beautiful icon of Our Lady of Jasna Góra but it is the Blessed Sacrament and the most important and most effective prayer is the Holy Mass. The Eucharist is the sun and the center of our faith,” Bishop Przybylski reflected.

Corpus Christi in Gniezno, Poland. / @prymasowska.
Corpus Christi in Gniezno, Poland. / @prymasowska.

And Archbishop Wojciech Polak of Gniezno commented that Corpus Christi “is about a living awareness that the Eucharist is the sacrament of God's presence and this essence could not and can never be replaced by virtual reality.”

The Polish bishops’ conference stated that “throughout the octave of Corpus Christi, Poles will participate in the processions, which are a part of the piety of the Polish, and express love for the Eucharistic Jesus.”

/ EWTN Poland.
/ EWTN Poland.

Christi Christi is a national holiday in Poland. Taking part in a procession is not only a public profession of faith, but also, since Poland’s loss of statehood in the 18th century, a manifestation of national belonging.

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Under communist rule after World War II, Corpus Christi processions were a sign of national unity and faith. The atheistic authorities tried to ban the processions on many occasions.

/ EWTN Poland.
/ EWTN Poland.

On a typical parish procession, Catholics visit four altars. At each one, they pray, the priest blesses everyone with the Blessed Sacrament, and the Gospel is read.

Poland, which has a population of almost 38 million, 93% of whom are Catholic, was initially relatively unscathed by the pandemic compared to other European countries. 

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But a third wave of coronavirus in 2021 put pressure on the nation’s health system and prompted the government to tighten restrictions. 

Corpus Christi in Prostyń, Poland. / Fr. Maciej Domanszczynski.
Corpus Christi in Prostyń, Poland. / Fr. Maciej Domanszczynski.

Poland has recorded more than 2.8 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 74,075 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.

/ EWTN Poland.
/ EWTN Poland.

This year, because of the pandemic, processions had a different character. Central processions in diocesan capitals with the participation of the bishop were limited and routes were shortened. Catholics were encouraged to participate in local parish processions in the immediate vicinity of their church.

Corpus Christi in Poland features a number of folk traditions in addition to the casting of petals, including music performed by orchestras and the wearing of folk costumes.

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/ EWTN Poland.
/ EWTN Poland.

Another custom is the laying of flower carpets. In Spycimierz, a small parish in central Poland, this tradition has been observed for more than 200 years, and the floral carpets stretch for over a kilometer (more than half a mile).