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Solemnity of Christ the King 2012

Pope Benedict XVI's homily at Holy Mass
St Peter's Basilica, Sunday, 25 November 2012 - also in French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese & Spanish

"Your Eminences, Dear Brother Bishops and Priests, Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today’s Solemnity of Christ, King of the Universe, the crowning of the liturgical year, is enriched by our reception into the College of Cardinals of six new members whom, following tradition, I have invited to celebrate the Eucharist with me this morning. I greet each of them most cordially and I thank Cardinal James Michael Harvey for the gracious words which he addressed to me in the name of all. I greet the other Cardinals and Bishops present, as well as the distinguished civil Authorities, Ambassadors, priests, religious and all the faithful, especially those coming from the dioceses entrusted to the pastoral care of the new Cardinals.

In this final Sunday of the liturgical year, the Church invites us to celebrate the Lord Jesus as King of the Universe. She calls us to look to the future, or more properly into the depths, to the ultimate goal of history, which will be the definitive and eternal kingdom of Christ. He was with the Father in the beginning, when the world was created, and he will fully manifest his lordship at the end of time, when he will judge all mankind. Today’s three readings speak to us of this kingdom. In the Gospel passage which we have just heard, drawn from the Gospel of Saint John, Jesus appears in humiliating circumstances – he stands accused – before the might of Rome. He had been arrested, insulted, mocked, and now his enemies hope to obtain his condemnation to death by crucifixion. They had presented him to Pilate as one who sought political power, as the self-proclaimed King of the Jews. The Roman procurator conducts his enquiry and asks Jesus: “Are you the King of the Jews?” (Jn 18,33). In reply to this question, Jesus clarifies the nature of his kingship and his messiahship itself, which is no worldly power but a love which serves. He states that his kingdom is in no way to be confused with a political reign: “My kingship is not of this world … is not from the world” (v 36).

Jesus clearly had no political ambitions. After the multiplication of the loaves, the people, enthralled by the miracle, wanted to take him away and make him their king, in order to overthrow the power of Rome and thus establish a new political kingdom which would be considered the long-awaited kingdom of God. But Jesus knows that God’s kingdom is of a completely different kind; it is not built on arms and violence. The multiplication of the loaves itself becomes both the sign that he is the Messiah and a watershed in his activity: henceforth the path to the Cross becomes ever clearer; there, in the supreme act of love, the promised kingdom, the kingdom of God, will shine forth. But the crowd does not understand this; they are disappointed and Jesus retires to the mountain to pray in solitude, to pray with the Father (cf Jn 6, 1-15). In the Passion narrative we see how even the disciples, though they had shared Jesus’ life and listened to his words, were still thinking of a political kingdom, brought about also by force. In Gethsemane, Peter had unsheathed his sword and began to fight, but Jesus stopped him (cf Jn 18,10-11). He does not wish to be defended by arms, but to accomplish the Father’s will to the end, and to establish his kingdom not by armed conflict, but by the apparent weakness of life-giving love. The kingdom of God is a kingdom utterly different from earthly kingdoms.

That is why, faced with a defenceless, weak and humiliated man, as Jesus was, a man of power like Pilate is taken aback; taken aback because he hears of a kingdom and servants. So he asks an apparently odd question: “So you are a king?” What sort of king can such a man as this be? But Jesus answers in the affirmative: “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice” (Jn 18, 37). Jesus speaks of kings and kingship, yet he is not referring to power but to truth. Pilate fails to understand: can there be a power not obtained by human means? A power which does not respond to the logic of domination and force? Jesus came to reveal and bring a new kingship, that of God; he came to bear witness to the truth of a God who is love (cf 1 Jn 4, 8,16), who wants to establish a kingdom of justice, love and peace (cf Preface). Whoever is open to love hears this testimony and accepts it with faith, to enter the kingdom of God.

We find this same perspective in the first reading we heard. The prophet Daniel foretells the power of a mysterious personage set between heaven and earth: “Behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. To him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed” (Dan 7, 13-14). These words present a king who reigns from sea to sea, to the very ends of the earth, possessed of an absolute power which will never be destroyed. This vision of the prophet, a messianic vision, is made clear and brought to fulfilment in Christ: the power of the true Messiah, the power which will never pass away or be destroyed, is not the power of the kingdoms of the earth which rise and fall, but the power of truth and love. In this way we understand how the kingship proclaimed by Jesus in the parables and openly and explicitly revealed before the Roman procurator, is the kingship of truth, the one which gives all things their light and grandeur.

In the second reading, the author of the Book of Revelation states that we too share in Christ’s kingship. In the acclamation addressed “to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood”, he declares that Christ “has made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father” (Rev 1, 5-6). Here too it is clear that we are speaking of a kingdom based on a relationship with God, with truth, and not a political kingdom. By his sacrifice, Jesus has opened for us the path to a profound relationship with God: in him we have become true adopted children and thus sharers in his kingship over the world. To be disciples of Jesus, then, means not letting ourselves be allured by the worldly logic of power, but bringing into the world the light of truth and God’s love. The author of the Book of Revelation broadens his gaze to include Jesus’ second coming to judge mankind and to establish forever his divine kingdom, and he reminds us that conversion, as a response to God’s grace, is the condition for the establishment of this kingdom (cf Rev 1, 7). It is a pressing invitation addressed to each and all: to be converted ever anew to the kingdom of God, to the lordship of God, of Truth, in our lives. We invoke the kingdom daily in the prayer of the 'Our Father' with the words “Thy kingdom come”; in effect we say to Jesus: Lord, make us yours, live in us, gather together a scattered and suffering humanity, so that in you all may be subjected to the Father of mercy and love.

To you, dear and venerable Brother Cardinals – I think in particular of those created yesterday – is entrusted this demanding responsibility: to bear witness to the kingdom of God, to the truth. This means working to bring out ever more clearly the priority of God and his will over the interests of the world and its powers. Become imitators of Jesus who, before Pilate, in the humiliating scene described by the Gospel, manifested his glory: that of loving to the utmost, giving his own life for those whom he loves. This is the revelation of the kingdom of Jesus. And for this reason, with one heart and one soul, let us pray: Adveniat regnum tuum – Thy kingdom come. Amen."

Papa Benedetto's words at the Angelus
St Peter's Square, Sunday 25th November 2012 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The Church today is celebrating Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. This Solemnity comes at the end of the liturgical year and sums up the mystery of Jesus “firstborn from the dead and ruler of the kings of the earth” (Collect, Year B), broadening our gaze towards the complete fulfilment of the Kingdom of God, when God will be everything to every one (cf 1 Cor 15, 28). St Cyril of Jerusalem said: “We preach not one advent only of Christ, but a second also, far more glorious than the former. For the former gave a view of his patience; but the latter brings with it the crown of a divine kingdom... in his second, He comes attended by a host of Angels, receiving glory” (Catechesis XVI, 1, Illuminandorum, De secundo Christi adventu: p 33, 869).

Jesus’ entire mission consisted in proclaiming the Kingdom of God and putting it into practice among human beings with signs and miracles. However, as the Second Vatican Council recalls, “this kingdom shone out before men .. in the presence of Christ” (Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 5) and he established it through his death on the Cross and his Resurrection, with which he manifested himself as Lord and Messiah and Priest for ever.

This Kingdom of Christ has been entrusted to the Church which is its “seed” and its “beginning” and has the task of proclaiming it and spreading it among the peoples, with the power of the Holy Spirit (cf ibid). At the end of the established time, the Lord will consign the Kingdom to God the Father and will present to Him all those who have lived in accordance with his commandment of love.

Dear friends, we are all called to extend God’s saving action, converting to the Gospel, following with determination the King who did not come to be served but to serve and to bear witness to the truth (cf Mk 10, 45; Jn 18, 37). In this perspective I invite everyone to pray for the six new Cardinals whom I created yesterday that the Holy Spirit will strengthen them in faith and in charity and fill them with his gifts, so that they may live their new responsibilities as a further dedication to Christ and to his Kingdom. These new members of the College of Cardinals represent well the universal dimension of the Church: they are Pastors of the Church in Lebanon, in India, in Nigeria, in Colombia, and in the Philippines, and one of them has been for many years in the service of the Holy See.

Let us invoke the protection of Mary Most Holy upon each one of them and on the faithful entrusted to their service. May the Virgin help us all to live the present time in expectation of the Lord’s second coming, forcefully imploring God: “Thy Kingdom come”, and undertaking those works of light which bring us ever closer to heaven, in the awareness that in the turbulent events of history God continues to build his Kingdom of love."

After the Angelus:
"Cari fratelli e sorelle!

Ieri, a Macas, in Ecuador, è stata proclamata Beata Maria Troncatti, Suora delle Figlie di Maria Ausiliatrice, nata in Val Camonica. Infermiera durante la prima Guerra Mondiale, partì poi per l’Ecuador, dove si spese interamente al servizio delle popolazioni della selva, nell’evangelizzazione e nella promozione umana. Rendiamo grazie a Dio per questa sua generosa testimone!

Sabato prossimo, 1° dicembre, avrà luogo il pellegrinaggio degli universitari di Roma alla Tomba di San Pietro, in occasione dell’Anno della fede. Per loro presiederò la celebrazione dei Primi Vespri della Prima Domenica di Avvento.

Je salue cordialement les pèlerins francophones, particulièrement les Libanais venus nombreux accompagner leur nouveau Cardinal. Nous célébrons aujourd’hui la Solennité du Christ Roi de l’univers. Sa royauté ne réside pas dans le pouvoir, l’honneur, la richesse, mais dans la faiblesse et l’anéantissement de la croix par amour pour nous sauver. Laissons le Christ convertir nos cœurs et nos mentalités, pour reconnaître que la véritable grandeur de l’homme et sa plénitude sont uniquement dans l’être avec Dieu, et dans l’amour reçu et donné. Puisse sa bénédiction descendre sur toute l’humanité et la conduire vers la paix ! Bonne fête à tous !

I offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors gathered for this Angelus prayer, especially those who have accompanied the new Cardinals created in yesterday’s Consistory.  Today, on the Solemnity of Christ the King, the Church invites us to contemplate the Lordship of the Risen Saviour and to pray for the coming of his Kingdom.  May Christ’s peace always reign in your hearts!

Mit Freude heiße ich alle deutschsprachigen Pilger und Besucher willkommen. Der heutige Christkönigssonntag bildet den Abschluß des Kirchenjahres. Wir schauen auf Christus, dessen Königtum nicht irdische Macht oder Herrschaft bedeutet; es besteht darin, für die Wahrheit Zeugnis abzulegen und sein Leben hinzugeben für die Rettung der Welt. Beten wir heute auch für die neuen Kardinäle, die dem Nachfolger des heiligen Petrus in seinem Dienst für die ganze Kirche in besonderer Weise zur Seite stehen. Der Herr lasse sie stets auf seine Stimme hören und mache sie zu Zeugen für seine Wahrheit und Liebe. Der Heilige Geist führe und leite uns alle auf allen unseren Wegen.

Saludo con afecto a los peregrinos de lengua española, en particular a los fieles de las parroquias de Granada, Málaga, Torremolinos y Baza, así como a los Obispos, sacerdotes, religiosos y laicos de Colombia, que han venido acompañando al Arzobispo de Bogotá, que ha sido agregado al Colegio cardenalicio. Por intercesión de la Virgen María, Madre de la Iglesia, y de la nueva beata Maria Troncatti, que ayer en Ecuador fue elevada a la gloria de los altares, pidamos a Jesucristo, Rey del Universo, que ilumine y fortalezca con su gracia al nuevo Purpurado, y que a todos nosotros nos aumente la fe y nos conceda perseverar en su amor hasta el final de nuestra vida. Que Dios os bendiga.

Witam serdecznie Polaków, uczestników dzisiejszej Mszy świętej ku czci Chrystusa Króla i modlitwy Anioł Pański. Módlmy się za nowych kardynałów. Prośmy, by Kościół był królestwem prawdy, sprawiedliwości, miłości i pokoju. Niech Chrystus króluje w naszych sercach i nam wszystkim błogosławi.

E, infine, rivolgo un saluto molto cordiale ai pellegrini di lingua italiana, in particolare al gruppo della Polizia Municipale di Agropoli e ai ragazzi dell’Unità di Pastorale Giovanile «San Filippo Neri» della Diocesi di Milano. Saluto i fedeli di Genzano di Lucania, accompagnati dall’Arcivescovo di Acerenza, come pure quelli di Tivoli Terme. A tutti auguro una buona domenica, una buona settimana. Buona festa. Auguri!"