‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ Pilate asked. Jesus replied, ‘Do you ask this of your own accord, or have others spoken to you about me?’ Pilate answered, ‘Am I a Jew? It is your own people and the chief priests who have handed you over to me: what have you done?’ Jesus replied, ‘Mine is not a kingdom of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, my men would have fought to prevent my being surrendered to the Jews. But my kingdom is not of this kind.’ ‘So you are a king then?’ said Pilate. ‘It is you who say it’ answered Jesus. ‘Yes, I am a king. I was born for this, I came into the world for this: to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice.’
Pope Pius XII instituted the Feast of Christ the King in his 1925 encyclical letter Quas Primas, in response to growing nationalism and secularism. The title of the feast was ‘D. N. Jesu Christi Regis’ (Our Lord Jesus Christ the King), and the date was ‘the last Sunday of the month of October – the Sunday, that is, which immediately precedes the Feast of All Saints.’ In Pope John XXIII’s 1960 revision of the Calendar, the date and title remained the same and, in the new simpler ranking of feasts, it was classified as a feast of the first class.
In his 1969 motu proprio Mysterii Paschalis, Pope Paul VI gave the celebration a new title: ‘D. N. Iesu Christi universorum Regis’ (Our Lord Jesus Christ King of the Universe). He also gave it a new date: the last Sunday in the liturgical year, before a new year begins with the First Sunday in Advent, the earliest date for which is 27 November. Through this choice of date ‘the eschatological importance of this Sunday is made clearer.’ He assigned to it the highest rank, that of ‘Solemnity.’
Two years after the institution of the Solemnity, our Founder published an article about Christ the King in his Saint Paul: Almanac of the Institute of the Missions. The immediate context in which this article was published was that:
Even in Malta there was some secularism during the first years of the 20th century. Malta’s Bishop, Peter Pace referred to it more than once in his pastoral letters.
Even nationalism could be felt. After his two year of rectorship at the Major Seminary, De Piro referred to the revolutionary spirit that could be felt among the seminarians!
During the First World War, and immediately after it, Malta experienced some economic prosperity, but this did not last long. In 1919 Malta experienced the Sette Giugno Riots where the Maltese protested against the extravagant prices of food especially bread.
The feast of Christ the King
Who does not recognize the present upheavals? After the war, the whole world remained in utter confusion. A great disorder was the consequence of this terrible Scourge. All the peoples were set against each other, trying to destroy one another. Society is corrupted and infected with so many false and deceptive doctrines, seeking to eliminate all good Religious feeling, promising peace and peace is never achieved.
The Pope recognizes very well the present state of the world; he wishes to see all the nations together, united, in the love of Jesus Christ. For this purpose he instituted the feast of Christ king of all nations, in this way all the peoples who are separated from each other, unite together under one reign and recognize Jesus as their King. Yes, Jesus is the true King as God and as man. As God he is one with the Heavenly Father; as man He has all power given Him by the Eternal Father. Yes Jesus must be the King of the world and extend his reign over all the nations. The world can find peace only in the Kingdom of Jesus Christ and it is in vain to seek it away from its divine King.
Yes, was not this feast of great importance and really necessary! It shook the world from its ugly state of drowsiness; it opened in front of it the true way which leads to peace. It confounded the wicked to the great consolation of the just. It encouraged many missionaries to enlarge the kingdom of Christ always.
Adveniat regnuni tuum. Yes, may the kingdom of this Jesus grow and attract to his bosom the whole world which casts itself to adore the Divine King and sing praises due to Him, united in love.