Today’s celebration of Christ the King in Rome, with the rite of canonization of six new saints by Pope Francis, is noteworthy for several reasons.
First, it has been noted that the rite of canonization has been re-reformed, after Pope Benedict had un-reformed it. You can see the booklet here. Pope Benedict XIV had introduced a rite two years ago that is largely what had been done under Pope Pius XII before Vatican II. But for this morning’s canonization the postconciliar rite of Paul VI has been, for the most part, restored. It is shorter. The three-fold petitions are now gone, along with the formulae emphasizing the authority of canonizations. And – in a new simplification not in the rite of Paul VI – the Penitential Act is now omitted, as its place is taken by the rite of canonization. The Litany of Saints is shortened and the final petitions to the Lord are gone, which is also a further simplification of Paul VI.
I suppose all this is the work of the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff – remember that Pope Francis replaced the entire membership of the committee of consultants to that office in September 2013. I don’t think the Congregation for Divine Worship would have been involved in these most recent changes to the canonization rite. So for those curious about what direction the CDW might be going, or who the next CDW prefect might be, this latest ritual simplification probably doesn’t provide any clues.
A second reason why this morning’s celebration of Christ the King in Rome is noteworthy is the homily of Pope Francis. The emphasis is on Jesus’ “closeness and tenderness” in bringing about his kingdom. Jesus is a shepherd who shows “care and love” for his flock. He is not “a king according to earthly ways” who reigns by commanding, but he is obedient to the Father so that “his plan of love and salvation may be brought to fulfilment.”
As for Jesus, so for us. “Closeness and tenderness are the rule of life for us also,” Francis said. “The starting point of salvation is not the confession of the sovereignty of Christ, but rather the imitation of Jesus’ works of mercy through which he brought about his kingdom.” Wow.
And picking up a familiar theme of his, Francis applies this to the church’s pastors. “Those of us who are called to be pastors in the Church cannot stray from this example, if we do not want to become hirelings.” Then the pope packs a punch with this line: “In this regard the People of God have an unerring sense for recognizing good shepherds and in distinguishing them from hirelings.”