Pope Francis slammed some of the Vatican’s bureaucrats on Thursday, warning the Holy See congregation of the devil lurking among them — or an “elegant demon” working in people who have rigid, holier-than-thou ways of life the catholic faith.
Francis used his annual Christmas greeting to the Roman Curia to remind the cardinals, bishops and priests working in the Vatican that they are by no means above all doubt, but on the contrary are particularly vulnerable to evil.
Francis told them that if we live in the heart of the Catholic Church, “we could easily succumb to the temptation to think we are safe, better than others, and need no more conversion.”
“Nevertheless, we are in greater danger than anyone else because we are possessed by the ‘elegant demon’ who does not appear loudly but comes with flowers in hand,” Francis told churchmen in the Blessing Hall of the Apostolic Palace.
“Gossip Terrorism” and “Spiritual Alzheimer’s”
Francis has long used his Christmas address as an annual dressing of Vatican officials, taking them through a typical Jesuit “examination of conscience” to help them repent before Christmas.
His harshest criticism came in 2014, when he listed the “15 afflictions of the Curia” some suffered from, including “gossip terrorism,” “spiritual Alzheimer’s,” and “hypocritical” double lives.
The following year, Francis offered an antidote to sins by listing the “catalogue of virtues” that he hoped they would follow instead, including honesty, humility, and sobriety.
This year the tone was similar, with Francis repeating his criticism of forms of abuse that even religious people use against one another.
“There’s not just the violence of guns, there’s verbal violence, there’s psychological violence, the violence of abuse of power, the hidden violence of gossip,” Francis said in a possible reference to a new case of abuse of authority stirring up his own Jesuit order.
“Don’t use your own position and role to humiliate the other.”
In addition, Francis also seemed to want to target arch-conservatives and traditionalists, who have become the pope’s biggest critics.
Francis has blasted her way of living the faith, insisting that being Catholic does not mean following a never-changing set of dictates, but rather is a “never-ending process of understanding Christ’s message, but us.” constantly challenged”.
“True heresy consists not only in preaching a different gospel, as Saint Paul told us, but also in no longer translating his message into today’s languages and ways of thinking,” Francis said.
Francis uses “we” to indicate that he is not without faults either
Traditionalist Catholics have denounced Francis’ emphasis on mercy and openness to doctrinal latitude 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 sermons, including allowing “pagan” statues in the Vatican.
Francis devoted most of his speech this year to the need to be vigilant against the devil’s work, picking up on a topic he recently discussed with the public during his weekly catechism lessons.
He told Vatican bureaucrats that simply condemning or rooting out evil is not enough, as it often returns in different guises, stronger than before.
Francis repeatedly used the term “we,” implying that he counts himself among those in the Vatican who need to be aware of the devil in their midst.
“It used to be rough and violent, now it’s elegant and sophisticated,” he warned. “We have to recognize that and expose it again. That’s what these ‘elegant demons’ are like: they gently invade 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, had charismatically reformed herself and her convent after evil crept in, but the devil returned in the form of a rigid belief.
“They had cast out the demon, but it had come back seven times stronger, and under the guise of thrift and rigor had introduced rigidity and the arrogance that they were better than others,” Francis warned.
Some of Francis’ critics themselves were in the audience along with his supporters.
Cardinal Angelo Becciu, whom Francis dismissed in 2020 and stripped of his cardinal rights after the pope accused him of financial misconduct, returned for the annual Christmas ceremony.
Becciu is currently before the Vatican Criminal Court along with nine other people and denies wrongdoing.
Francis recently allowed him to participate 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.