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 | United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

In Response to Secularism and Atheism, Catholics Celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King

From the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

November 7, 2022 | During the early twentieth century, in Mexico, Russia, and some parts of Europe, militantly secularistic regimes threatened not just the Catholic Church and its faithful, but civilization itself. In response, Pope Pius XI wrote an encyclical to give Catholics hope and—while governments around them crumbled—the assurance that Christ the King shall reign forever.

The pope’s encyclical Quas primas (“In the first”) which was released in 1925, also instituted the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, or Christ the King, which is observed the last Sunday of each liturgical year. This year, it will be on November 20th.

Pope Pius XI recognized that attempting to “thrust Jesus Christ and his holy law” out of public life would result in continuing discord among people and nations. This solemnity reminds us that while governments come and go, Christ reigns as King forever. Jesus Christ “is very truth, and it is from him that truth must be obediently received by all mankind” (Quas primas, 7).

The Primacy of Christ

The readings on the Solemnity of Christ the King emphasize the primacy of Christ, through whom and for whom all things were created. He is head of the Church, the firstborn from the dead, the one who kindles in us the flame of hope in God’s mercy. 

The goal of life in the Church—the sacramental, moral, and spiritual life—is communion with the Triune God, which we realize by being drawn ever more deeply into the life of Christ. The eternal life we receive in the midst of the Church comes ultimately from Christ, and the Church connects us to Christ, “in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” In following him and allowing ourselves to be transformed by grace, we find authentic freedom. 

The Mercy of Christ

The repentant thief who was crucified alongside Jesus, St. Dismas, beautifully shows what hope in the mercy of God looks like. Although he faces execution for wrongs he has committed, he entrusts himself to Jesus’ mercy. St. Dismas shows us that it is never too late to reach out to the Lord and ask for mercy.

Hope in Christ

One of the most important virtues that Christians must ask for is hope. Hope is often thought of as a desire for a good that is possible to achieve. To share eternal life in communion with God can only be achieved by God’s grace, and so hope in Christ is a gift from God. Hope is a kind of engine that pushes us forward in the Christian life. When we stumble in sin, as we so often do, hope drives us to get up, seek healing in the confessional, and carry on in the journey. On the other hand, when we lose hope, we fall into despair, refusing to stand back up and accept God’s healing mercy. We can ask Christ the King, to kindle in us that flame of hope.

Novena to Christ the King

November 11-19, the nine days preceding the Solemnity, the USCCB encourages Catholics to participate in a Novena to Christ the King. Daily intentions and a concluding Prayer to Christ the King can be found Let us take this time to offer prayers to our sovereign king for the freedom of the Church. 

Religious Liberty

Connect with the USCCB Committee for Religious Liberty. Text FREEDOM to 84576 and Sign up for First Freedom News, the USCCB Committee for Religious Liberty’s monthly newsletter.