Saint Peter’s Basilica could hold 60,000 standing inside and 300,000 in the famous piazza outside it, but for the Feast of Corpus Christi a meager fifty will be present because of coronavirus restrictions.

This Sunday, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass for Corpus Christi (also known as the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ) at the Altar of the Chair in Saint Peter’s Basilica. The liturgy will end with a display of the Blessed Sacrament and a Benediction.

A small number of Faithful will witness the Mass in person – around fifty people. However, Vatican Media will live stream the Mass beginning at 9:45 Rome time (Click here to figure out when it will begin where you live).

In 2018, Pope Francis ended John Paul II’s long standing tradition of celebrating the Feast of Corpus Christi in the Basilica of Saint John Lateran, the pontiff’s cathedral. Last year, Pope Francis celebrated Mass from the steps of Santa Maria Consolatrice Church in Rome’s Casal Bertone neighborhood.

The Vatican announcement included the history of the feast day and the Church dogma related to it. Read below:

The Solemnity of Corpus Christi dates back to the 13th century. In Belgium, following the mystical experiences of Saint Juliana de Cornillon, a local feast dedicated to the Most Holy Eucharist was established in Liège in 1247.

Several years later, in 1263, a Bohemian priest on pilgrimage to Italy was afflicted by doubts about the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. While celebrating Mass in the town of Bolsena, he experienced a Eucharistic miracle, when a few drops of blood were shed by the broken Host after the consecration. The very next year, in 1264, Pope Urban IV extended the feast of Corpus Christi to the whole Church.

The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ – as it is now known – honours Jesus substantially present in the Blessed Sacrament. The truth of the Real Presence was confirmed in 1215 by the Fourth Lateran Council. Later, in 1551, the Council of Trent definitively re-affirmed the doctrine in a passage quoted verbatim by the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

“Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation” (cf. CCC 1376).

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