Purpose and content
Quas primas was a follow up to Pius's initial encyclical, Ubi arcano Dei consilio, in which he stated, "...as long as individuals and states refused to submit to the rule of our Savior, there would be no really hopeful prospect of a lasting peace among nations." The Pope then enjoined the faithful to seek "the Peace of Christ in the Kingdom of Christ".
It was written in the aftermath of World War I, which saw the fall of the Hohenzollerns, Romanovs, Habsburgs, and the Osmans. In contrast, Pope Pius XI pointed to a king "of whose kingdom there shall be no end". In 1925 the Pope asked the French Dominican priest, Édouard Hugon, professor of philosophy and theology at the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Angelicum to work on Quas primas.
"...[T]he Word of God, as consubstantial with the Father, has all things in common with him, and therefore has necessarily supreme and absolute dominion over all things created." In Matthew 28:18 Jesus himself says, "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me." In Revelation 19:16 Christ is recognized as "King of kings and Lord of lords."
The encyclical summarizes both the Old Testament and the New Testament teaching on the kingship of Christ. Invoking an earlier encyclical Annum sacrum of Pope Leo XIII, Pius XI suggests that the kingdom of Christ embraces the whole mankind. Pius explained that by virtue of Christ’s claim to kingship as creator and redeemer, societies as well as individuals owe Him obligations as king.
So he is said to reign "in the hearts of men," both by reason of the keenness of his intellect and the extent of his knowledge, and also because he is very truth, and it is from him that truth must be obediently received by all mankind. He reigns, too, in the wills of men, for in him the human will was perfectly and entirely obedient to the Holy Will of God, and further by his grace and inspiration he so subjects our free-will as to incite us to the most noble endeavors. He is King of hearts, too, by reason of his "charity which exceedeth all knowledge.— Quas primas, §7
Significance for the laity
While the encyclical was addressed to Catholic bishops, Pope Pius XI wanted the feast of Christ the King to encourage the laity.
The faithful, moreover, by meditating upon these truths, will gain much strength and courage, enabling them to form their lives after the true Christian ideal. If to Christ our Lord is given all power in heaven and on earth; if all men, purchased by his precious blood, are by a new right subjected to his dominion; if this power embraces all men, it must be clear that not one of our faculties is exempt from his empire. He must reign in our minds, which should assent with perfect submission and firm belief to revealed truths and to the doctrines of Christ. He must reign in our wills, which should obey the laws and precepts of God. He must reign in our hearts, which should spurn natural desires and love God above all things, and cleave to him alone. He must reign in our bodies and in our members, which should serve as instruments for the interior sanctification of our souls, or to use the words of the Apostle Paul, as instruments of justice unto God.— Quas primas, §33
- Pope Pius XI, Quas primas, §28, Libreria Editrice Vaticana
- Quas primas, §5.
- Hugon O.P., Édourad. "Fuori della Chiesa non c'è salvezza", Accessed Feb. 6, 2013
- Pope Pius XI, Quas primas, §7, Libreria Editrice Vaticana
- McCall, Brian M., "Quas Primas and the Economic Ordering of Society for the Social Reign of Christ the King", Journal of Catholic Legal Studies, Vol. 47, January 2008
- Pope Pius XI, Quas primas, §33, Libreria Editrice Vaticana