This year was a beautiful and bright Sunday for the feast of Pentecost in Rome. They usually need a lot of priests and deacons (and occasionally, seminarians) to help distribute communion. Like every Vatican event, this requires a ticket. So, I was able to obtain one, as I did for the Easter Sunday Mass. There were far fewer dignitaries at this Mass than there were for Easter, so I was able to sit much closer to the Pope than I did for Easter Mass. Here was my view for the Mass:
I thought at Easter they had far too few priests helping with the distribution of Holy Communion. For the Mass at Pentecost, they had way, way too many. There must have been 200 priests, deacons, and seminarians distributing Holy Communion. For Mass, we sit together up near where the altar is. During the offertory for Mass, we are taken into St. Peter's Basilica. This time we went in a line to the Immaculate Conception chapel, where they had prepared hundreds of ciboria with hosts. The are rather plain brass ciboria. The innovation is that they have a clear plastic top that revolves. This allows you to see how many hosts are there. You can also slide a top piece to create an opening, and then slide it back to cover everything in the ciborium and keep them safe from the elements.
We then stand in the Basilica for the Mass, holding the ciboria with the hosts for the consecration. Towards the end of the Eucharistic Prayer, we are brought outside to take our place among the 200,000 or so people gathered for Mass. Some of the people distributing have guides with yellow and white umbrellas to show them where to go. I just followed the line until one of the Italian staff pointed to a place by the barricades for me to distribute. Then you give out as many hosts as possible.
To minimize the chances for desecration--accidental or intended--communion is given out only on the tongue, with the Latin verse Corpus Christi. So, you have lots of people sticking their hands at you, and you have to tell them only on the tongue. (And I also make the men remove their hats first). This means they have to get close for me to be able to give them communion. The problem is when you give communion at the barriers that mark the route of the Popemobile. People want to be right at the barricade to get the best view of the Pope when he goes by--and they do not want to give up their spot. So people behind them want to receive communion, but the people with their spots at the barricade will not move out of the way. The most creative solution I saw was the family that simply ducked to get out of the way, and still keep their spot.
Here are the pictures from Mass at St. Peter's: