Pope Francis Cautions Vatican Staff That an "Elegant Demon" Is Among Them

In his annual Christmas greeting to the Roman Curia, Pope Francis warned cardinals, bishops, and priests working in the Holy See on December 22 to beware of the devil that lurks among them.

He described it as an “elegant demon” that works in people with a rigid and holier-than-thou attitude when living the Catholic faith.

The Pope used the occasion to remind Vatican bureaucrats that they are not beyond reproach but are more vulnerable to evil.

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

Yet we are in greater danger than all others because we are beset by the ‘elegant demon,’ who does not make a loud entrance but comes with flowers in his hand,” Pope Francis also told the clergy in the Hall of Blessings of the Apostolic Palace.

Pope Francis had used his Christmas addresses to reprimand the clergy annually, replicating the experience of a Jesuit-style “examination of conscience” to help them repent their sins ahead of Christmas.

His harshest criticism of the Vatican bureaucracy came in 2014 when he listed the “15 ailments of the Curia” that some members of the clergy suffered, such as the “terrorism of gossip,” ″spiritual Alzheimer’s,” and of living “hypocritical” double lives. The following year, the Pope offered an antidote to these sins by creating a “catalog of virtues” he hoped the clergy would follow instead, such as honesty, humility, and sobriety.

This year’s address was no different in tone, repeating his critique of different kinds of abuse that even the most religious commit.

There isn’t only the violence of weapons; there is verbal violence, psychological violence, the violence of abuse of power, the hidden violence of gossip,” Pope Francis said, possibly referring to a case involving sexual abuse within his Jesuit order. “Don’t take advantage of your own position and role to mortify the other.” He also added.

Pope Francis also addressed traditionalists and conservatives in the Catholic Church, which had become his fiercest critics. He criticized the way they lived the Catholic faith arguing that being a Catholic doesn’t only mean living an unchanging set of doctrines but is a “process of understanding Christ’s message that never ends, but constantly challenges us.

True heresy consists not only in preaching another gospel, as Saint Paul told us but also in ceasing to translate its message into today’s languages and ways of thinking,” The Pope said.

The Pope told the Vatican bureaucrats that it was not enough to condemn or root out evil since it would come back stronger. He also used the word “we” many times, therefore including himself in the list of people who should be conscious of the devil in their midst.

Some of the Pope’s critics, such as Cardinal Angelo Becciu, were in the audience. He was fired in 2020 and stripped of his cardinal duties and rights after accusations of financial misconduct.

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