Pope warns Vatican staff that an “elegant demon” lurks among them.

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis warned Vatican bureaucrats Thursday to beware of the devil lurking in their midst, saying he is an “elegant demon” who works on people who lead a rigid, holier-than-thou Catholic lifestyle. of faith. .

Francis used his annual Christmas greeting to the Roman Curia to again alert cardinals, bishops and priests who work at the Holy See that they are by no means unacceptable and, in fact, are particularly vulnerable to evil.

Francis told them that living in the heart of the Catholic Church, “we could easily be tempted to think that we are safe, better than others, that we no longer need conversion.”

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

Francis has long used his Christmas speech for an annual dressing down of Vatican bureaucrats, putting them through a typical Jesuit-style “examination of conscience” to help them repent ahead of Christmas.

His most pointed criticism came in 2014, when he listed the “15 diseases of the Curia” that some suffered, including “gossip terrorism”, “spiritual Alzheimer’s” and “hypocritical” double living. The following year, Francis offered an antidote to the sins by citing the “list of virtues” he hoped they would follow, including honesty, humility and sobriety.

This year was similar in tone, but Francis also appeared to want to take broader aim at the antiquarian conservatives and traditionalists who have become the pope’s biggest critics. Francis broke down the way they live their faith, insisting that being Catholic does not mean following an unchanging set of precepts, 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 St. Paul told us, but also in ceasing to translate his message into today’s languages ​​and ways of thinking,” Francis said.

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

Francis devoted most of his address this year to the need to be vigilant about the work of the devil, choosing a theme he discussed recently during his weekly catechesis classes with the general public.

He told Vatican bureaucrats that it is not enough to simply condemn evil or root it out, as it often returns in different forms, stronger than before. Francis used the term “we” repeatedly, indicating that he is included among those in the Vatican who must beware of the devil in their midst.

“Before it looked rough and violent, now it looks elegant and sophisticated,” he warned. “We have to realize it and once again expose it. “That’s what these ‘elegant demons’ are like: they slip in smoothly, without us even being aware of them,” he said.

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

“They had cast out the demon, but it had returned seven times stronger and under the guise of austerity and austerity, it had introduced rigidity and the assumption that they were better than others,” Francis warned.

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

Becciu is currently on trial, along with nine other people, at the Vatican’s criminal court and denies wrongdoing. Francis recently allowed him to continue participating in Vatican ceremonies, a sign the pope believes he may have jumped the gun to sanction Becciu before a court decides his guilt or innocence.

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