‘The Eucharist gives life’: Poles celebrate Corpus Christi amid pandemic

A Corpus Christi procession in the Stara Miłosna quarter of Warsaw, June 11, 2020. All photos: Fr. Mariusz Wedziuk.

Catholics took part in traditional Corpus Christi processions across Poland Thursday amid strict safety measures intended to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. 

People wearing cloth face coverings took to the streets June 11 to celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, one of the high points of the liturgical calendar. 

As the sun shone across the country, 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.

Preaching at a Corpus Christi Mass at Poznań Cathedral, Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki noted that the slogan for the Polish Church’s current pastoral program is “The Eucharist gives life.”

The president of the Polish bishops’ conference recalled that access to public Masses was restricted at the height of the crisis in March. 

Gądecki said: “We were used to the fact that the Eucharist was always at hand. Even if someone participated irregularly, they were always aware of its universal availability. Maybe we didn’t appreciate it enough for that reason, maybe we even fell into a routine.” 

“Meanwhile, the lack of it made us realize that without the Eucharist — in a spiritual sense — we are dying. Perhaps — as a result of the epidemic — the slogan of this pastoral year will cease to be a pious slogan, and will become a task with which our heart will identify.”

Poland, which has a population of almost 38 million, 93% of whom are Catholic, is emerging relatively unscathed by the pandemic compared to other European countries. It has recorded 28,201 infections and 1,215 deaths as of June 11, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

Gądecki issued an appeal to Poles June 9 to comply with health and safety requirements while taking part in Corpus Christi processions. He urged them to wear masks covering their mouth and nose and to keep a distance of six feet from others.

“Let us make every effort to celebrate the sacred mysteries of our faith with dignity and safely, with a sense of responsibility for ourselves and others,” he said.