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Solemnity of Christ the King 2010

Pope Benedict XVI's homily at Mass in St Peter's
Sunday, 21 November 2010 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Your Eminences, Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood, Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On the Solemnity of Christ the King we have the joy of gathering round the Lord's altar with the 24 new Cardinals whom I added to the College of Cardinals yesterday. I first address to them my cordial greeting, which I extend to the other Cardinals and all the Prelates present, as well as to the distinguished Authorities, the Ambassadors, the priests, the religious and all the faithful who have come from various parts of the world for this happy occasion which has a distinct character of universality.

Many of you will have noticed that the last Public Consistory for the Creation of Cardinals, held in November 2007, was also celebrated on the eve of the Solemnity of Christ the King. Three years have passed, thus, in accordance with the liturgical cycle for Sundays, the Word of God comes to us through the same biblical readings for this important Feast. It takes place on the last Sunday of the liturgical year and, at the end of the itinerary of faith, presents to us the royal Face of Christ, as the Pantocrator in the apse of an ancient basilica. This coincidence asks us to meditate deeply on the ministry of the Bishop of Rome and on the ministry of the Cardinals linked to it, in the light of the unique Kingship of Jesus, Our Lord.

The primary service of the Successor of Peter is that of the faith. In the New Testament, Peter becomes the “rock” of the Church insofar as he is the bearer of the Credo: the “we” of the Church begins with the name of the first man who professed faith in Christ, it begins with his faith; a faith that was at first immature and still “too human”. Then, however, after Easter it matured and made him capable of following Christ even to the point of the gift of himself; it developed in the belief that Jesus is truly King; that he is so precisely because he remained on the Cross, and in that way gave his life for sinners. In the Gospel we see that everyone asks Jesus to come down from the Cross. They mock him, but this is also a way of excusing themselves from blame as if to say: it is not our fault that you are hanging on the Cross; it is solely your fault because if you really were the Son of God, the King of the Jews, you would not stay there but would save yourself by coming down from that infamous scaffold. Therefore, if you remain there it means that you are wrong and we are right. The tragedy that is played out beneath the Cross of Jesus is a universal tragedy; it concerns all people before God who reveals himself for what he is, namely, Love. In the crucified Jesus the divinity is disfigured, stripped of all visible glory and yet is present and real. Faith alone can recognize it: the faith of Mary, who places in her heart too this last scene in the mosaic of her Son's life. She does not yet see the whole, but continues to trust in God, repeating once again with the same abandonment: “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord” (cf Lk 1, 38). Then there is the faith of the good thief: a faith barely outlined but sufficient to assure him salvation: “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” This “with me” is crucial. Yes, it is this that saves him. Of course, the good thief is on the cross like Jesus, but above all he is on the Cross with Jesus. And, unlike the other evildoer and all those who taunt him, he does not ask Jesus to come done from the Cross nor to make him come down. Instead he says: “Remember me when you come into your kingdom”. The good thief sees Jesus on the Cross, disfigured and unrecognizable and yet he entrusts himself to him as to a king, indeed as to the King. The good thief believes what was written on the tablet over Jesus' head: “The King of the Jews”. He believed and entrusted himself. For this reason he was already, immediately, in the “today” of God, in Paradise, because Paradise is this: to be with Jesus, to be with God.

So here, dear Brothers, is the first and fundamental message that the word of God clearly tells us today: to me, the Successor of Peter, and to you, Cardinals. It calls us to be with Jesus, like Mary, and not to ask him to come down from the Cross but rather to stay there with him. And by reason of our ministry we must do this not only for ourselves but for the whole Church, for the whole People of God. We know from the Gospels that the Cross was the critical point of the faith of Simon Peter and of the other Apostles. It is clear and it could not be otherwise: they were men and thought “according to men”; they could not tolerate the idea of a crucified Messiah. Peter's “conversion” is fully achieved when he stops wanting “to save” Jesus and accepts to be saved by him. He gives up wanting to save Jesus from the Cross and allows Jesus' Cross to save him. “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren” (Lk 22, 32), the Lord says. Peter's ministry consists first of all in his faith, a faith that Jesus immediately recognizes, from the outset, as genuine, as a gift of the heavenly Father; but a faith that must pass through the scandal of the Cross to become authentic, truly “Christian”, to become a “rock” on which Jesus can build his Church. Participation in the lordship of Christ is only brought about in practice in the sharing of his self-abasement, with the Cross. My ministry too, dear Brothers, and consequently also yours, consists wholly of faith. Jesus can build his Church on us as long as that true, Paschal faith is found in us, that faith which does not seek to make Jesus come down from the Cross but entrusts itself to him on the Cross. In this regard the true place of the Vicar of Christ is the Cross, it lies in persisting in the obedience of the Cross.

This ministry is difficult, because it is not in line with the human way of thinking — with that natural logic which, moreover, continues to be active within us too. But this is and always remains our primary service, the service of faith that transforms the whole of life: believing that Jesus is God, that he is the King precisely because he reached that point, because he loved us to the very end. And we must witness and proclaim this paradoxical kingship as he, the King, did, that is, by following his own way and striving to adopt his same logic, the logic of humility and service, of the ear of wheat which dies to bear fruit. The Pope and the Cardinals are called to be profoundly united first of all in this: all together, under the guidance of the Successor of Peter, they must remain in the lordship of Christ, thinking and working in accordance with the logic of the Cross — and this is never easy or predictable. In this we must be united and we are, because it is not an idea or a strategy that unites us but love of Christ and his Holy Spirit. The effectiveness of our service to the Church, the Bride of Christ, depends essentially on this, on our fidelity to the divine kingship of crucified Love. For this reason on the ring that I am consigning to you today, the seal of your nuptial covenant with the Church, is the image of the Crucifixion. And for the same reason the colour of your robe alludes to blood, the symbol of life and of love. The Blood of Christ which, according to an ancient iconography, Mary collected from the pierced side of the Son, who died on the Cross; and that the Apostle John contemplated while it gushed out with water, according to the prophetic Scriptures.

Dear Brothers, it is from this that our wisdom derives: sapientia Crucis. On this St Paul reflected profoundly. He was the first to outline Christian thought in an organized way, centred precisely on the paradox of the Cross (cf 1 Cor 1, 18-25; 2, 1-8). In the Letter to the Colossians, of which today's Liturgy proposes the Christological Hymn — the Pauline reflection, made fertile by the grace of the Spirit, already reaches an impressive level of synthesis in expressing an authentic Christian concept of God and of the world, of personal and universal salvation; and it is all centred on Christ, the Lord of hearts, of history and of the cosmos: “In him the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in Heaven, making peace by the blood of his Cross” (Col 1, 19-20). Dear Brothers, we are always called to proclaim this to the world: Christ “the image of the invisible God”, Christ “the first-born of all creation”, and “the first-born from the dead”, as the Apostle writes, so “that in everything he might be pre-eminent” (Col 1, 15 & 18). The primacy of Peter and his Successors is totally at the service of this primacy of Jesus Christ, the one Lord; at the service of his Kingdom, that is, of his Kingship of love, so that it might come and be spread, renew men and things, transform the earth and cause peace and justice to germinate in it.

The Church fits into this plan that transcends history and, at the same time, is revealed and fulfilled in it, as the “Body” of which Christ is “the Head” (cf Col 1, 18). In the Letter to the Ephesians, St Paul speaks explicitly of the lordship of Christ and sets it in relation to the Church. He formulates a prayer of praise to the “greatness of the power of God” who raised Christ and made him the universal Lord and concludes, “and he [God] has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the Church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Eph 1, 22-23). Here, Paul attributes to the Church the very word “fullness”, which applies to Christ, for participation: the body, in fact, participates in the fullness of the Head. This, Venerable Brother Cardinals — and I am also addressing all of you who share with us the grace of being Christian — this is what our joy is: participating in the Church in the fullness of Christ through the obedience of the Cross, of being qualified “to share in the inheritance of the saints in light”, of being “transferred” to the Kingdom of the Son of God (cf Col 1, 12-13). For this reason we live in perennial thanksgiving, and even in trials do not lack the joy and peace that Christ bequeathed to us as a guarantee of his Kingdom which already exists among us, who wait with faith and hope, and of which we have a foretaste in love. Amen."

Papa Benedetto's words at the Angelus in St Peter's Square
- in Croatian, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The Liturgy of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King of the Universe in the Vatican Basilica has just ended. It was also concelebrated by the 24 new Cardinals created at yesterday’s Consistory. The Solemnity of Christ the King was established by Pius XI in 1925 and, later, after the Second Vatican Council, it was placed at the close of the liturgical year. The Gospel according to St Luke presents, as in a great painting, the kingship of Jesus at the moment of his Crucifixion. The leaders of the people and the soldiers taunt “the first-born of all creation” (Col 1:15) and put him to the test to see whether he has the power to save himself from death (cf. Luke 23:35-37). Yet precisely: “on the Cross, Jesus is exalted to the very ‘height’ of the God who is Love. It is there that he can be ‘known’.... Jesus gives us ‘life’ because he gives us God. He can give God because he himself is one with God” (Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth (English translation, Doubleday, New York, 2007, pp. 349 and 354 ). In fact, while the Lord seems to be mistaken because he is between two wrong-doers, one of them, aware of his sins, opens himself to truth, arrives at faith and prays “the King of the Jews”: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Lk 23:42). From the One who “is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col 1:17) the so-called “Good Thief” straight away receives forgiveness and the joy of entering the Kingdom of Heaven. “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Lk 23:43). With these words, Jesus, from the throne of the Cross welcomes every human being with infinite mercy. St Ambrose comments that this “is a beautiful example of conversion to which one should aspire: forgiveness is very quickly offered to the thief and grace is more abundant than the request; the Lord in fact”, St Ambrose says, “always gives more than is asked for.... Life is being with Christ because where Christ is there is the Kingdom” (Expositio Ev. sec. Lucam X, 121: ccl 14, 379).

Dear Friends, we can also contemplate in Christian art the way of love that the Lord reveals to us and invites us to take. In fact, in the past “in the arrangement of Christian sacred buildings... it became customary to depict the Lord returning as a king — the symbol of hope — at the east end; while the west wall normally portrayed the Last Judgement as a symbol of our responsibility for our lives” (Encyclical Spe Salvi, n. 41): hope in the infinite love of God and commitment to ordering our life in accordance with the love of God. When we contemplate depictions of Jesus inspired by the New Testament — as an ancient Council teaches — we are led to “understand... the sublimity and the humiliation of the Word of God and... to remember his life in the flesh, his Passion and his salvific death, and the redemption that the world derived from it” (Council in Trullo, [691 or 692], can. 82). “Yes, we need it, precisely to... become capable of recognizing in the pierced heart of the Crucified One the mystery of God” (J. Ratzinger, Teologia della liturgia: La fondazione sacramentale dell'esistenza cristiana, LEV 2010, p. 69).

Today, the Memorial of the Presentation of Mary at the Temple, let us entrust to the Virgin Mary the new members of the College of Cardinals and our earthly pilgrimage toward eternity."

After the Angelus:

"Oggi, in Italia, su invito dei Vescovi, le comunità ecclesiali pregano per i cristiani che soffrono persecuzioni e discriminazioni, specialmente in Iraq. Mi unisco a questa corale invocazione al Dio della vita e della pace, affinché in ogni parte del mondo sia assicurata a tutti la libertà religiosa. Sono vicino a questi fratelli e sorelle per l’alta testimonianza di fede che rendono a Dio.

Nell’odierna memoria della Presentazione al Tempio della Beata Vergine Maria, la Chiesa si stringe con particolare affetto alle monache e ai monaci di clausura: è la “Giornata pro Orantibus”, che rinnova anche l’invito a sostenere concretamente queste comunità. Ad esse imparto di cuore la mia benedizione.

Oggi ricorre anche la “Giornata delle vittime della strada”. Mentre assicuro il mio ricordo nella preghiera, incoraggio a proseguire nell’impegno della prevenzione, che sta dando buoni risultati, ricordando sempre che la prudenza e il rispetto delle norme sono la prima forma di tutela di sé e degli altri.

Je salue cordialement les pèlerins francophones, en particulier ceux qui ont accompagné les nouveaux Cardinaux. Nous célébrons aujourd’hui la Solennité du Christ Roi de l’univers. Le Fils de Dieu, vainqueur du péché et de la mort, règne humblement sur les hommes de toutes les races et de tous les peuples, par la puissance et la grandeur de son amour. Accueillant son règne dans nos cœurs et dans nos familles, nous devenons les artisans d’un monde de fraternité, de justice et de paix. Puisse le Christ Roi de l’Univers, bénir et protéger toute l’humanité! Bonne fête et bon pèlerinage à tous!

I extend a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors here today. I greet especially those who have travelled to Rome in order to be present for this weekend’s Consistory, and to pray for the twenty-four new Cardinals. And I greet the groups of pilgrims from Saint Anne’s parish, Orange, California, from Immaculate Conception Church, Los Angeles, California, and Saint Patrick’s Parish in London. On this feast of Christ the King, we ask the Lord to guide our efforts to proclaim the good news of his Kingdom to people everywhere. Upon all of you, and upon your families and loved ones at home, I invoke God’s abundant blessings.

Mit Freude grüße ich alle deutschsprachigen Brüder und Schwestern, besonders die Pilger aus der Schweiz und aus Deutschland, die anläßlich des Konsistoriums der Kardinäle nach Rom gekommen sind. Am letzten Sonntag des Kirchenjahres schauen wir auf Christus, den König auf dem Kreuzesthron. Das Kreuz offenbart uns Gottes wahre Herrschaft: keine Macht der Gewalt, sondern die Macht des Erbarmens und der Liebe, die alle verwandelt und zu wirklich freien Menschen macht. Als getaufte Christen wollen wir am Aufbau seines Reiches der Gerechtigkeit, des Friedens und der Liebe mitarbeiten. Dabei stärke euch der Heilige Geist.

En este momento, me siento cercano a los afectados por las lluvias torrenciales que, en los últimos días, han devastado gran parte de Colombia. Deseando que los llamamientos a la solidaridad sean escuchados, me uno a cuantos elevan oraciones al Señor por las víctimas y a cuantos están viviendo horas de angustia y tribulación.

Saludo con afecto a los peregrinos de lengua española. De modo especial, a los Obispos, sacerdotes, religiosas, religiosos y fieles que habéis venido de Ecuador y España, acompañando a los nuevos Cardenales. Pidamos al Espíritu Santo, por intercesión de la Madre de la Iglesia, María Santísima, que los sostenga e ilumine con su gracia para que, llenos de amor a Dios y estrechamente unidos al Sucesor de Pedro, continúen entregando fielmente su vida al servicio de Dios y de los hombres, y así poder un día participar de su Reino. Feliz domingo.

Dirijo uma cordial saudação a todos os peregrinos de língua portuguesa, nomeadamente aos brasileiros que vieram participar do Consistório para a Criação de novos Cardeais. Peçamos à Nossa Senhora que interceda junto ao Seu Filho, Rei do Universo, para que esta seja uma ocasião de reafirmar a unidade e a catolicidade da Igreja.

Pozdrawiam pielgrzymów z Polski, a szczególnie tych, którzy towarzyszą Kardynałowi Arcybiskupowi Warszawy. Wspierajcie modlitwą i życzliwością jego i wszystkich waszych Biskupów. Dziś w Polsce po raz dziesiąty rusza akcja „Szlachetna paczka”. Niech rozwija się to dzieło miłosierdzia dla dobra potrzebujących i tych, którzy przychodzą im z pomocą. Niech wszystkim Bóg błogosławi.

Rivolgo un cordiale saluto ai pellegrini di lingua italiana, specialmente a quelli venuti per rendere omaggio ai nuovi Cardinali. Sono lieto di salutare la qualificata rappresentanza dell’Arma dei Carabinieri, guidata dal Comandante Generale e dall’Ordinario Militare, in occasione della festa di Maria Santissima, venerata quale Patrona col titolo di Virgo Fidelis. Saluto i volontari del “Banco Alimentare”, presenti per chiedere la benedizione prima della colletta nazionale che avrà luogo sabato prossimo; come pure il gruppo parrocchiale da Cagliari.

A tutti auguro una buona domenica."