Pope Pius XI, in his encyclical Quas Primas, (1925) instituted the Feast of Christ the King during the holy year commemorating the 1600th anniversary of the Council of Nicea which took place in 325. The Pope wished to affirm the “Kingly dignity of Christ” by remembering the words of the Nicene Creed, “and his Kingdom will have no end.” In doing so, he also wished to correct the false ideologies of nationalism, materialism, secularism and anti-clericalism that were beginning to arise in many places. These “false ideologies” already dominant in Russia, soon became manifest in formerly Catholic areas such as Italy, Germany and Mexico. For example, only two years after the publication of Quas Primas, on November 23, 1927, the Jesuit priest Blessed Miguel Pro was executed by the anti-Catholic government of Mexico. Facing his executioners, Fr. Miguel forgave the firing squad, stretched out his arms in the form of a crucifixion and proclaimed, “Viva Cristo Rey!” (Long live, Christ the King!)
Pope Francis I, in his encyclical Lumen Fidei, has said, “The light of faith is unique, since it is capable of illuminating every aspect of human existence. A light so powerful, that it cannot come from ourselves but from a more primordial source: in a word, it must come from God. Faith is born of an encounter with the living God who calls us and reveals his love, a love which precedes us and upon which we can lean for security and for building our lives. Transformed by this love, we gain fresh vision, new eyes to see; we realize that it contains a great promise of fulfillment and that a vision of the future opens up before us. Faith, received from God as a supernatural gift, becomes a light for our way, guiding our journey through time. Those who have opened their hearts to God’s love hear his voice and receive his light and cannot keep this gift to themselves. Since faith is hearing and seeing, it is also handed on as word and light.”
When Pope Pius XI first established the Feast of Christ the King, he called upon the men and women of his age to boldly proclaim the truth of the Gospel to their contemporaries and to promote and defend the rights of Christ and His Church against those who were usurping Divine prerogatives and ignoring basic human rights: “This state of things may perhaps be attributed to a certain slowness and timidity in good people, who are reluctant to engage in conflict and manifest only weak resistance; thus the enemies of the Church become bolder in their attacks. But if the faithful were generally to understand that it behooves them ever to fight courageously under the banner of Christ their King, then fired with apostolic zeal, they would strive to win over to their Lord those hearts that are bitter and estranged from him, and would valiantly defend his rights.”
As citizens of the United States, we have no king. However, we are members of a democratic republic, with a written constitution that defends basic human rights, defines a limited government and prohibits any laws that deny the free exercise of religion. As Catholics exercising our religious liberty, we proudly proclaim that Christ is our King, not just at Mass but wherever we are – at home or at work, at school or at play, in government or in business, in our charities and our hospitals. In this we are united as we “fight courageously under the banner of Christ the King” for liberty and justice for all.