Pope warns Vatican officials that an 'elegant demon' lurks among them

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VATICAN CITY (AP) – Pope Francis warned Vatican bureaucrats on Thursday to beware of the devil that lurks among them, saying it is an “elegant devil” who works in people who have a strict and holier way to live the Catholic faith.

Francis has used his annual Christmas greetings to the Roman Curia to again alert cardinals, bishops and priests working in the Holy See that they are by no means beyond reproach and are, in fact, particularly vulnerable to evil.

Francis told them that, 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 everyone else because we are besieged by the ‘elegant devil’ who does not make a noisy entrance but comes with flowers in his hand,” Francis told clerics in the Hall of Blessing of the Apostolic Palace.

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

His most scathing critique came in 2014, when he listed the “15 Curial Diseases” that some have suffered, including “gossip terrorism”, “spiritual Alzheimer’s” and “hypocritical” double living. The following year, Francis offered an antidote to sins by listing the “catalogue of virtues” he expected them to follow, including honesty, humility and sobriety.

This year has had a similar tone, and Francis has reprized his critique of the forms of abuse that even religious people use against each other.

“There is not only gun violence, there is verbal violence, psychological violence, the violence of abuse of power, the hidden violence of gossip,” said Francis, in a possible reference to a new case of abuse of authority being investigated. under study. disturbing his own Jesuit order🇧🇷 “Do not take advantage of your own position and role to mortify another.”

Furthermore, Francis also seemed to want to target more broadly the archconservatives and traditionalists who have become the pope’s biggest critics. Francis has criticized his way of living the faith, insisting that being Catholic does not mean following an unchanging set of dictates, but rather a “process of understanding Christ’s message that never ends, but constantly challenges us”.

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

Traditionalist Catholics denounced Francis’ emphasis on mercy and openness to doctrinal wiggle room on issues such as sacraments for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics. Some even accused 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, returning to a theme he recently discussed during his weekly catechism classes with the general public.

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

“Before it seemed rude and violent, now it is elegant and refined”, he warned. “We need to realize this and, once again, debunk it. These ‘elegant demons’ are like that: they slip in without a hitch, without us being aware of them,” he said.

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

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

Some of Francis’ own critics were in the audience along with their supporters. Returning to the annual Christmas ceremony was Cardinal Angelo Becciu, whom Francis sacked 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, at the Vatican’s criminal court and denies wrongdoing. Francis recently allowed him back to participate in Vatican ceremonies, a sign that the pope thinks he may have been too hasty to sanction Becciu before a court has ruled on his guilt or innocence.