Today we celebrate the Feast of Christ the Universal King. We claim that there is something universal about the person and Gospel of Jesus Christ. The texts for the feast are from the prophet Daniel and the Gospel of John.
The context of the feast is that it was declared in the twentieth century by Pope Pius XI. In 1925 Pope Pius instituted the feast, as he saw, around the world, the turning from Christ, who no longer had a central place in ‘private affairs or in politics’. He refers to a growing individualism where the self is the source and arbiter of truth. In this context the Kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ is inserted into the liturgy and Pius has as his motto Christ’s Peace in Christ’s Kingdom.
Pius was also known for his encyclical Quadragesimo Anno. In this he protested against Nazism and Communism as well as condemning the capitalistic greed of international finance. An interesting man defending the rights of the family and promoting just and fair wages and building on Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum – often cited as the first encyclical of a body of Church Social Justice teaching.
What can we make of the feast almost one hundred years later?
In 1991 the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue published the document Dialogue and Proclamation. This document put forward two dimensions of dealing with religious plurality in our times. Today that plurality has grown even further. Our society is made up of people who have differing religious interpretations of life as well as those who have no religious interpretation of life. Look at our Australian census. The plurality on the way that people ‘put life together’ is religious, non-religious, ideological, philosophical, and ecological. And so in the midst of that plurality we are called to both proclamation and dialogue. Proclamation is about sharing the good news of the gospel. Dialogue is about sharing that good news in a way that allows us to learn from others as well.
Can we learn from each other? Christians from Christians, religious from non-religious? Can we purify and understand more deeply our own faith, distinguishing superstition, uncritical acceptance of the way things are and so forth, from the Gospel of Christ founded on forgiveness of sin and the proclamation of the Kingdom of God among us.
Pope Francis has been keen on dialogue within the world around us. A few years ago he received the Charlemagne prize for service to European unification. Francis’ approach is seen to have added to the harmony and understanding of people with differing views. In his acceptance speech he said the following:
“If there is one word that we should never tire of repeating, it is this: dialogue. We are called to promote a culture of dialogue by every possible means and thus to rebuild the fabric of society. The culture of dialogue entails a true apprenticeship and a discipline that enables us to view others as valid dialogue partners, to respect the foreigner, the immigrant and people from different cultures as worthy of being listened to. Today we urgently need to engage all the members of society in building ‘a culture which privileges dialogue as a form of encounter’ and in creating ‘a means for building consensus and agreement while seeking the goal of a just, responsive and inclusive society’. Peace will be lasting in the measure that we arm our children with the weapons of dialogue, that we teach them to fight the good fight of encounter and negotiation. In this way, we will bequeath to them a culture capable of devising strategies of life, not death, and of inclusion, not exclusion.”
Pope Pius XI was right in recognising that the adherence to Christianity in the world is no longer taken for granted or universal. Francis is offering us another way to share our faith: dialogue.