At Sunday's Angelus, the pope renews call for prayers for persecuted Christians
VATICAN CITY — Jesus Christ is the King who reigns not by dominating us but by freeing us from all that prevents us from loving and being loved, Pope Francis said on Sunday.
Addressing pilgrims in a sunny St. Peter’s Square on the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, the pope said when Jesus tells Pilate that his kingdom is “not of this world” (cf. Jn 18:36), this “does not mean that Christ is the king of another world, but rather that he is king in another way.” For Christ’s dominion is not imposed “with the weapons of fear.” Instead, “it quietly but effectively asserts itself through the power of truth.”
Pope Pius XI instituted the feast of the Kingship of Christ on December 11, 1935 with the promulgation of the Encyclical Quas Primas. Through the establishment of this liturgical feast, Pius XI desired to make solemn proclamation of the social dominion of the Lord Jesus Christ over the world. Christ, the King of souls and consciences, of intellects and wills, is also the King of families and cities, peoples and nations, he taught. He is King of the whole universe.
Jesus revealed his kingship “in the event of the Cross,” Pope Francis said in his Sunday Angelus address. “Whoever looks at the Cross cannot but see the surprising selflessness of love.” What seems to be a failure, he said, is in reality the failure “of sin” and of “human ambition.”
“In the failure of the Cross,” he said, “we see love.”
“For the Christian, to speak of power and strength means pointing to the power of the Cross and the strength of Jesus’ love: a love that remains firm and whole, even in the face of rejection, and that appears as the fulfillment of a life spent in total self-offering for mankind.”
Paradoxically, the pope said, true failure would have come by getting down from the Cross, as the passersby and leaders scoffingly encouraged Jesus to do. Yet that would have been antithetical to divine love.
“If Jesus had come down from the cross,” Pope Francis said, “he would have succumbed to the temptation of the prince of this world. Instead, he cannot save himself, precisely in order to save others, precisely because he gave his life for us, for each one of us … to be able to save each of us from our sins.”
“The power of the kingdom of Christ is love,” he said. “That is why the kingship of Jesus does not oppress us, but frees us from our weaknesses and miseries, encouraging us to follow the paths of goodness, reconciliation and forgiveness.”
The “good thief” understood this well, the pope added. Although he was a criminal “condemned to death because of all the brutality he had carried out in his life,” nevertheless, “in the attitude of Jesus, in the meekness of Jesus, he saw love.”
Pope Francis encouraged the faithful to look often at the Cross and make the words of the good thief their own: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingly power.”
He also encouraged them to ask the Blessed Virgin to help them “to imitate Jesus, our King, by making his kingdom present through acts of tenderness, understanding and mercy.”
After the Angelus Pope Francis informed the faithful that yesterday, in Barcelona, Federico da Berga and 25 martyr companions were proclaimed blessed. This group of Capuchin priests, religious, and lay brothers, he explained, “were killed in Spain during the ferocious persecution of the Church last century.”
He said: “Let us entrust to their intercession our many brothers and sisters who, unfortunately still today, in various parts of the world, are being persecuted because of their faith in Christ.”
The pope also asked the faithful to pray for his upcoming journey to Africa.
“This Wednesday I begin the journey to Africa, to visit Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic,” he said. “I ask you to pray for this journey, so that it may be for all these dear brothers and sisters, and for me, a sign of closeness and love. Together let us ask Our Lady to bless these dear lands, so that there may be peace and prosperity there.”
To read the full text of the Pope’s address, click here.
Diane Montagnais Rome correspondent for Aleteia’s English edition.