June 19, 2017 (Steven O’Reilly) – It has been reported Pope Francis did not kneel before the Blessed Sacrament on the Feast of Corpus Christi. Others in the blogosphere have noted this. GloriaTV has a photo of this here. We commented on the Pope’s failure to kneel during the Fatima centenary here. It is all very strange. In April, the Pope’s knees were sufficiently flexible to bend and kneel before twelve prisoners whose feet he washed on Holy Thursday. He has done so on past occasions as well. The Pope’s predecessor, Benedict XVI, had this to say about kneeling in 2008; coincidentally, on the occasion of the Solemnity of Corpus Christi [NB: emphasis added below]:
At this point we cannot forget the beginning of the “Decalogue”, the Ten Commandments, where it is written: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me” (Ex 20: 2-3). Here we find the meaning of the third constitutive element of Corpus Christi: kneeling in adoration before the Lord. Adoring the God of Jesus Christ, who out of love made himself bread broken, is the most effective and radical remedy against the idolatry of the past and of the present. Kneeling before the Eucharist is a profession of freedom: those who bow to Jesus cannot and must not prostrate themselves before any earthly authority, however powerful. We Christians kneel only before God or before the Most Blessed Sacrament because we know and believe that the one true God is present in it, the God who created the world and so loved it that he gave his Only Begotten Son (cf. Jn 3: 16). We prostrate ourselves before a God who first bent over man like the Good Samaritan to assist him and restore his life, and who knelt before us to wash our dirty feet. Adoring the Body of Christ, means believing that there, in that piece of Bread, Christ is really there, and gives true sense to life, to the immense universe as to the smallest creature, to the whole of human history as to the most brief existence. Adoration is prayer that prolongs the celebration and Eucharistic communion and in which the soul continues to be nourished: it is nourished with love, truth, peace; it is nourished with hope, because the One before whom we prostrate ourselves does not judge us, does not crush us but liberates and transforms us. (Homily of His Holiness Benedict XVI, On the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, May 22nd, 2008).
It would be helpful if the Vatican issued some sort of explanation as to why Pope Francis does not kneel on certain occasions when it would be expected of any other practicing Catholic to do so – assuming no disability. Certainly, the pope may have some sort of back problem or some other medical explanation which might make kneeling difficult for him. I don’t think Catholics need to know the precise detail of what that medical condition might be, but it is in the interest of the Church, especially in an age of diminished belief in the Real Presence, that a sufficient explanation be provided so that Catholics do not draw from the Pope’s example the wrong conclusion, e.g., standing during Eucharistic Adoration is now a commendable and pious posture for those who might otherwise be able to kneel. It is long past the time for an answer: what is up with the “not-kneeling thing”? I’d ask the question in the form of Dubia – but I don’t believe Rome handles those any more under this pontificate.