On Sunday, 26 November, Pope Francis led the Angelus prayer from the chapel of Casa Santa Marta instead of the usual window of the Apostolic Palace, due to a lung inflammation. The following is a translation of the Holy Father’s reflection on the Gospel passage for the Solemnity of Christ the King, which was read out loud by Msgr Paolo Braida, Head of Office at the Secretariat of State.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today I cannot appear at the window because I have this lung inflammation problem, and Monsignor Braida will read the reflection. He knows them well because it is he who writes them, and he always does it so well! Thank you very much for your presence. Today, the last Sunday of the liturgical year and Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, the Gospel speaks to us about the final judgement (cf. Mt 25:31-46) and tells us that it will be based on charity.
The scene that it presents to us is that of a regal hall, in which Jesus, “the Son of man” (v. 31) is seated on a throne. All the peoples are gathered at his feet. Among them, the “blessed” (v. 34), the friends of the King, stand out. But who are they? What is so special about these friends in the eyes of their Lord? According to the criteria of the world, the king’s friends should be those who gave him wealth and power, who helped him conquer territories, win battles, made him great among other rulers, perhaps to appear as a star on the front pages of newspapers or on social media, and to them he should say: “Thank you, because you have made me rich and famous, envied and feared”. This is according to the criteria of the world.
However, according to Jesus’ criteria, it is others who are friends: they are those who served him in the weakest people. This is because the Son of man is a completely different King, who calls the poor “brethren”, who identifies with the hungry, the thirsty, the outsiders, the sick, the imprisoned, and says: “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (v. 40). He is a King who is attuned to the problem of hunger, to the need for a home, to sickness and to imprisonment (cf. vv. 35-36): realities that are unfortunately all too current. The hungry, the homeless, often dressed however they can, cram our streets: we come across them every day. And also with regard to infirmity and prison, we all know what it means to be sick, to make mistakes and to pay the consequences.
So, today’s Gospel tells us that the “blessed” are those who respond to these forms of poverty with love, with service: not by turning away, but by giving food and drink, by clothing, sheltering, visiting; in short, by being close to those in need. And this is because Jesus, our King, who calls himself the Son of man, finds his favourite sisters and brothers in the most fragile women and men. His “regal hall” is set up where there are people who suffer and need help. This is the “court” of our King. And the style with which his friends, those who have Jesus as their Lord, are called to distinguish themselves is his own style: compassion, mercy, tenderness. They ennoble the heart and descend like oil on the wounds of those injured by life.
Thus, brothers and sisters, let us ask ourselves: Do we believe that true royalty consists in mercy? Do we believe in the power of love? Do we believe that charity is the most kingly manifestation of man and an indispensable requirement for the Christian? And finally, a specific question: Am I a friend of the King, that is, do I feel personally involved in the needs of the suffering people I find on my path?
May Mary, Queen of Heaven and Earth, help us to love Jesus our King in the least of his brethren.
After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father continued:
Dear brothers and sisters, today the particular Churches are celebrating the 38th World Youth Day, on the theme Rejoicing in Hope. I bless those who are taking part in the initiatives organized in the dioceses, in continuity with the World Youth Day in Lisbon. I embrace young people, the present and future of the world, and I encourage them to be joyful protagonists in the life of the Church.
Yesterday, martyred Ukraine commemorated the Holodomor, the genocide perpetrated by the Soviet regime 90 years ago, that caused millions of people to starve to death. Instead of healing, that lacerating wound is made even more painful by the atrocities of the war that continues to make that dear nation suffer. For all peoples torn apart by conflicts, let us continue to pray tirelessly, because prayer is the force of peace that breaks the spiral of hatred, that breaks the cycle of revenge and opens up unexpected paths of reconciliation. Today let us thank God that there is finally a truce between Israel and Palestine, and that some hostages have been freed. Let us pray that they will all be freed as soon as possible — let us think of their families! — that more humanitarian aid will enter Gaza, and that dialogue will be insisted upon: it is the only way, the only way to achieve peace. Those who do not want to dialogue do not want peace.
Aside from war, our world is being threatened by another great danger: the climate [crisis], which puts life on Earth at risk, especially for future generations. And this is contrary to the plan of God, who created everything for life. Therefore, next weekend, I will go to the United Arab Emirates to speak at the cop28 in Dubai, on Saturday. I thank everyone who will accompany this journey with prayer and with the commitment to take to heart the preservation of our common home.
I welcome you with affection, pilgrims from Italy and other parts of the world, in particular those from Pakistan, Poland and Portugal. I greet the faithful from Civitavecchia, Tarquinia and Piacenza, and the Deputazione San Vito Martire of Lequile, Lecce. I greet the confirmation candidates from Viserba, Rimini; the “Assisi nel vento” Group, and the “Don Giorgio Trotta” Choir from Vieste.
I wish you all a happy Sunday. And please, do not forget to pray for me. Enjoy your lunch. Arrivederci!