Pope warns Vatican staff that an ‘elegant demon’ lurks among them

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis on Thursday warned Vatican bureaucrats to beware of the devil lurking among them, saying it is an “elegant devil” that works on people who have a rigid way of living the faith. catholic. .

Francis used his annual Christmas greeting to the Roman Curia to again warn cardinals, bishops and priests who work in the Holy See that they are not free from reproach, and indeed are particularly vulnerable to evil.

Francis told them that by living in the heart of the Catholic Church, “we could easily fall into the temptation of thinking that we are safe, better than others, that we no longer need conversion.”

“However, we are in greater danger than all the others, because we are harassed by the ‘elegant devil,’ who does not make a loud entrance, but comes with flowers in hand,” Francis told churchmen in the Hall. of Blessings of the Apostolic Palace.

Francis has long used his Christmas speech for an annual rebuke. from Vatican bureaucrats, taking them through a typical Jesuit-style “examination of conscience” to help them repent on Christmas Eve.

His most virulent criticism came in 2014, when he listed the “15 ailments of the curia” suffered by some, including “gossip terrorism”, “spiritual Alzheimer’s” and living a “hypocritical” double life. The following year, Francis offered an antidote to sin by listing the “catalog of virtues” he expected them to follow, including honesty, humility and sobriety.

This year struck a similar tone, with Francis repeating his criticism of the forms of abuse that even religious people use against each other.

“Not only is there violence with weapons, there is verbal violence, psychological violence, the violence of the abuse of power, the hidden violence of gossip,” Francisco said, in a possible reference to a new case of abuse of authority that has been reported. is investigating. clouding his own Jesuit order. “Do not take advantage of your own position and role to mortify the other.”

Beyond that, Francis also seemed to want to target more of the arch-conservatives and traditionalists who have become the pope’s biggest critics. Francis criticized their way of living the faith, insisting that being a Catholic does not mean following a set of dictates that never change, but rather a “process of understanding the message of Christ that never ends, but constantly challenges us.”

“True heresy consists not only in preaching another gospel, as Saint Paul told us, but also in failing to translate his message into today’s languages ​​and ways of thinking,” Francis said.

Traditionalist Catholics have denounced Francis’ emphasis on mercy and openness to doctrinal leeway on issues such as sacraments for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics. Some have even gone so far as to accuse him of heresy. for some of his gestures and preaching, including allowing “pagan” statues in the Vatican.

Francis devoted most of his speech this year to the need to be vigilant about the devil’s work, picking up on a topic he recently discussed during his weekly catechism lessons with the general public.

He told the Vatican bureaucrats that it is not enough to simply condemn evil or eradicate it, as it often returns in different guises, stronger than before. Francis used the term “we” repeatedly, suggesting that he includes himself among those in the Vatican who must remain aware of the devil in their midst.

“Before he seemed rude and violent, now he appears elegant and refined,” he warned. “We need to realize that and once again expose it. That’s what these ‘fancy demons’ are like: they come in without a problem, without us even being aware of them,” he said.

Francis told the story of a 17th-century convent in Port Royal, France, where the superior, Mother Angelique, had charismatically reformed herself and her monastery after evil crept in, but the devil returned in the form of a rigid faith.

“They had expelled the devil, but he had returned seven times stronger, and under the guise of austerity and rigor, he had introduced rigidity and the presumption that they were better than the rest,” Francisco warned.

Some of Francis’s critics were in the audience along with his supporters. He returned to the annual Christmas ceremony Cardinal Angelo Becciu, whom Francis fired in 2020 and stripped of his rights as a cardinal after the pope accused him of financial misconduct.

Becciu is currently on trial, along with nine others, in the Vatican criminal court and denies any wrongdoing. Francis recently allowed him to take part in Vatican ceremonies again, a sign the pope believes he may have been hasty in sanctioning Becciu before a court ruled on his guilt or innocence.

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