Sydney's Corpus Christi procession draws thousands in 'joyful witness' of their love of Christ

Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney, in gold vestments, leads thousand in a Corpus Christi procession June 2, 2024, the feast of the Body and Blood of the Lord. (OSV News photo/Giovanni Portelli, courtesy The Catholic Weekly)

SYDNEY (OSV News) – Record crowds celebrated the largest "Walk With Christ" Australian initiative since the COVID-19 pandemic as more than 15,000 Catholics joined the procession through the streets of Sydney for the feast of Corpus Christi.

Speaking with joy at the public witness, Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney stated that the solemn event June 2 was an encouraging display of devotion as Australia aspires to host the 2028 International Eucharist Congress.

"Today, my dear friends, you have done as the council asked and helped prepare this city and country for that event we devoutly hope Pope Francis will grant us in 2028," Archbishop Fisher said, referring to the Australian Plenary Council.

Auxiliary Bishop Richard Umbers of Sydney said he was proud the Sydney faithful showed the world why the council has asked for the opportunity to host an International Eucharistic Congress.

"It's no secret that Australia aspires to host an International Eucharistic Congress, and such a public display of faith certainly adds credibility to our bid," Bishop Umbers said.

As Sydney vicar for evangelization, Bishop Umbers said he was emboldened by the record crowds to host even more processions in the future.

"Momentum is building for an enlivened Eucharistic culture in Sydney. The faithful have always been present, they have just been longing for an outlet to proudly declare their love of Christ," Bishop Umbers said.

As thousands arrived on a cold and windy Sunday afternoon in Martin Place in central Sydney, their hearts were soon warmed during the pre-procession festivities with music and parishes connecting in fraternity before an introduction from Father Roberto Keryakos, a priest at St. Mary's Cathedral.

"Our Catholic faith is more beautiful than the world. Jesus Christ is more beautiful than anyone else, and he calls you and I to be holy," Father Karyakos told the crowds. "Invite our Lord into those places that need his presence. Don't be afraid. If it's been a while, come back home. If it's been a while, run back to God."

The combined voices of Brigidine College Randwick and St. Peter Chanel Regent's Park Catholic schools choirs of the Jubilate Deo program, led by conductor Ronan Reily, chanted solemnly as the shut-down business district anticipated the arrival of Christ.

The Eucharistic procession arrived shortly after at the ringing of the bells. Coming up from George Street, clergy led by Archbishop Fisher processed the Eucharistic Lord around the barricades before starting on their journey.

School and parish banners flew high above the sea of congregants who marched past a combination of confused bystanders and eager onlookers stopping to record the event.

Yet many stopped in reverence at the sight of the monstrance, even joining in on prayers with smiles and admiration.

A convenience shop worker on Macquarie Street left his post at the back register and pressed his face against the shop front window to get a glimpse of the astounding sight.

The director of the Sydney Center for Evangelization, Daniel Ang, said the public witness was not just for the faithful, but it is an opportunity to bring the joy of Christ to the people of Sydney.

"Such processions are a leaven in our largely disenchanted world. It reminds us that people come to and deepen in faith through multiple, overlapping experiences and influences, including the festive and by really 'treading the ground' in faith with others rather than speculating or observing from a distance," Ang told The Catholic Weekly.

"A graced afternoon and a simple, joyful witness to the treasure of the church, which is Christ, for many thousands," he said.

Samoan, Vietnamese, Lebanese, Portuguese, Croatian and Latin American Catholics, among others, made up large sections of the crowd as they arrived near Hyde Park. One young boy who stood above the crowd on the stairs of the Queen Victoria statue came prepared with a walkie-talkie in hand – when he spotted his parents, he ran into the sea of walkers to meet them.

As church bells rang to begin the procession, so they did at the end, this time at St. Mary's Cathedral when the host and followers arrived in the forecourt for adoration, the Gospel reading and benediction.

Archbishop Fisher preached a "fervorino" – Italian for "a quick exhortation" on communion both with the Lord and with each other.

"Today, my dear people, you have very publicly acknowledged God. Today, you have very publicly witnessed hope and unity," he said.

"My dear people, you have just proclaimed to our city the gift of redemption in Christ Jesus. Not through robust argument, clever rhetoric or special effects, but simply by 'Walking With Christ' whom you love," the archbishop continued.

"Like a priest calling down the Spirit upon the elements of bread and wine to change them into Christ's body and blood, you have exercised your priestly power as the baptized to call the Spirit down upon this city to change it into God's kingdom. … That his kingdom come, his will be done, on earth as in heaven, you brought Sydney our daily Bread, the Bread of Life," Archbishop Fisher said.

"You proclaimed that Christ lives in our city, our communities, our hearts. He has given us his all, his very body and blood, all his substance and reality, all his spirit and grace, so no one would be left behind," he added. "Give him your all in return!"


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