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The Vatican Aflame – and the Smoke of Satan

What appropriate symbolism for the Church under Francis. UPDATE: Notice the smoke, as Blessed Pope Paul VI said: “from some fissure the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God.” With the camels in the scene also, it makes one think of Islam and ISIS.  See also the sermon below the picture.


Summary of Blessed Pope Paul VI’s sermon on the smoke of Satan by Father Stephanos Pedrano.





In the evening of Thursday, 29 June, Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, in the presence of a considerable multitude of the faithful coming from every part of the world, the Holy Father celebrates the Mass and the beginning of the tenth year of his Pontificate as successor of Saint Peter.

With the Dean of the Sacred College, Lord Cardinal Amleto Giovanni Cicognani and the Subdean Lord Cardinal Luigi Traglia, there are thirty Porporati [cardinals] from the Curia, and some Shepherds of dioceses, present today in Rome.

Two Lord Cardinals for each Order [or rank], accompany the Holy Father in procession to the altar.

In the complete [entourage], the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, with the Substitute of the Secretary of State, archbishop Giovanni Benelli, and the Secretary of the Council for the Public Affairs of the Church, archbishop Agostino Casaroli.

We give a rendering of the Homily of His Holiness.

The Holy Father begins by affirming a most lively debt of gratitude to all those Brothers and Sons who are present in the Basilica and all those who, far away, but spiritually associated to them, are attending the sacred rite whose purpose is to celebrate the Apostle Peter, to whom the Vatican Basilica is dedicated as the privileged guardian of his tomb and his relics, and the Apostle Paul, ever united to him by apostolic design and by cult.  He [the Holy Father] joins to that purpose another intention:  that of recalling the anniversary of his election to succession in the pastoral ministry of the fisherman Simon, son of Jona, whom Christ named “Peter”— succession therefore also in the roles of Bishop of Rome, Pontiff of the universal Church, visible and most humble Vicar on earth of Christ the Lord.  The most lively gratitude is for how much the presence of so many faithful shows him their love for Christ himself in the sign of his [the Holy Father’s] poor person, and it assures him therefore of their fidelity and indulgence towards him, no less than their consoling commitment to help him with their prayer.


Paul VI goes on to say that he does not want to speak in his brief discourse, about him, St. Peter, for it would take too long and would perhaps be superfluous to anyone who already knows his marvelous history; neither does he [the Holy Father] wish to speak about himself, since there is already too much being said about him in the press and the radio.  Nonetheless, he expresses his debt of recognition to them [the press and the radio].  The Holy Father wishes, rather, to speak of the Church, which in that moment and from that vantage point seems to appear before his eyes as spread out in its most vast and most complicated panorama. He limits himself to repeating a phrase from the Apostle Peter himself, as if uttered by Peter to the immense catholic community, uttered by him in his first letter that is included in the canon of the writings of the New Testament.  This most beautiful message, sent from Rome to the first Christians of Asia Minor, who were partly of Jewish origin, partly of pagan, as if to show right from the start the universality of the apostolic ministry of Peter.  This message has a parenetic character, that is, an exhortative character, but it does not lack doctrinal teachings, and the phrase that the Pope cites has precisely that character, so much that the recent Council has enshrined it as one of the Council’s characteristic teachings.  Paul VI invites all to listen to it as if St. Peter were pronouncing it for them while he [Paul VI] was voicing it.

After having recalled the passage from Exodus that tells how God, speaking to Moses before giving him the Law, said:  “I shall make of this people a priestly and royal people,” Paul VI declares that St. Peter took up this quite uplifting and grand phrase, and he applied it to the new people of God, the heir and continuance of Biblical Israel, to form a new Israel, the Israel of Christ.  St. Peter says:  “This people will be a priestly and royal people that will glorify the God of mercy, the God of salvation.”

The Holy Father makes the observation that certain individuals have misunderstood this phrase, as if the priesthood were only one order, and as if it had been communicated to all who are inserted in the Mystical Body of Christ, to all who are Christians. That understanding is true as far as regards what is called the common priesthood, but the Council tells us, and Tradition had already taught, that there exists another grade of the priesthood, the ministerial priesthood that has particular and exclusive faculties and prerogatives.

However, what interests everyone is the royal priesthood, and the Pope spends some time on the meaning of this expression.  Priesthood means the capacity to render worship to God, to communicate with Him, to offer Him worthily something in his honor, to converse with Him, to seek him always with new depth, with new discovery, with new love.  This impetus of humanity towards God, which is never sufficiently achieved, nor sufficiently known, is the priesthood of the one who is inserted in the unique Priest, who is Christ, after the inauguration of the New Covenant.  Whoever is a Christian is for that reason endowed with this quality, with this prerogative of being able to speak to the Lord in real terms as a son to a father.


“We dare to say”:  we can really celebrate, before the Lord, a rite, a liturgy of shared prayer, a sanctification even of profane life, and this distinguishes one who is Christian from one who is not.  This people is distinct, even though it may be mixed in with the great tide of humanity.  It has its own distinction, its own unmistakable characteristic.  St. Paul says “segregatus” [segregated], separate, distinct from the rest of humanity precisely because invested with prerogatives and functions lacking to those who do not possess the extreme fortune and excellence of being members of Christ.

Paul VI adds, then, that the faithful— who are called to be sons of God, to be partakers in the Mystical Body of Christ, and are animated by the Holy Spirit, and made into the temple of the presence of God— must carry out this dialogue, this colloquium, this conversation with God in religion, in liturgical worship, in private worship, and extend the sense of sacredness even to profane actions.  “Whether you eat, whether you drink— says St. Paul— do it for the glory of God.”  And he says it several more times, in his letters, as if to challenge the Christian with the capacity to infuse something new, to illuminate, to make sacred even the things that are temporal, external, passing, profane.

We are invited to give to the Christian people, that is called the Church, a truly sacred meaning.  And we feel the duty to hold back the rising tide of profanity, of desacralization, of secularization that wants to confuse and overwhelm the religious sense in the secret of the heart, in private life or even in the affirmations of public life.  There is a tendency today to affirm that there is no need to distinguish one man from another, that there is nothing that could bring about this distinction.  Even more, there is a tendency to restore to man his authenticity, his being like all other men.  But the Church and St. Peter today summon the Christian people to its consciousness of itself, and say to the Christian people that it is a chosen people, distinct, “acquired” by Christ, a people that must exercise a particular relationship with God, a priesthood with God.  This sacralization of life must not be canceled today, expelled from custom and from daily reality as if forced to appear no more.


Paul the VI notes that we have lost the religious habit and so many other exterior manifestations of religious life.  On this point there is much to discuss and much to acknowledge, but it is necessary to maintain the concept, and with the concept also some sign of the sacredness of the Christian people, of those who are inserted into Christ, High and Eternal Priest.

Certain sociological currents today tend to study humanity while prescinding from this contact with God.  By contrast, the sociology of St. Peter, the sociology of the Church, studies men by pointing to precisely this sacred aspect of conversation with the ineffable, with God, with the divine world.  It is necessary to affirm that in the study of all the human differentiations.  No matter how heterogeneous humankind may appear to be, we must not forget this fundamental unity that the Lord confers upon us when he gives us grace:  we are brothers in Christ himself.  There is no longer Jew, nor Greek, no Scythian, nor barbarian, nor man, nor woman.  We are all only one thing in Christ.  We are all sanctified, we all have participation in this supernatural grade of elevation that Christ has conferred upon us.  St. Peter reminds us of it:  it is the sociology of the Church that we must not obliterate or forget.


Paul VI asks himself, then, if the Church of today can bring itself to face with tranquility the words that Peter has left as an inheritance, offering them to be meditated upon.  The Holy Father says, “At this time, with immense charity, let us again think of all our brothers who are leaving us, think of all those who are fugitive and oblivious, think of all who perhaps have never arrived at having an awareness of the Christian vocation, even though they have received Baptism.  How we should wish truly to stretch out our hands towards them, and tell them that our hearts are always open, that the door is easy, and how we should wish to make them sharers in the great, ineffable fortune of our happiness, the fortune of being in communication with God, who does not take away from us any part of the temporal vision and the positive realism of the exterior world!“

Perhaps our being in communication with God obligates us to renunciations, to sacrifices; but at the same time that it deprives us of something it multiplies its gifts.  Yes, it imposes renunciations, but it makes us superabundant in other riches.  We are not poor, rather we are rich, because we have the riches of the Lord.  The Pope adds, “And so, we should wish to tell these brothers—whose absence we feel as it were in the guts of our priestly soul— how close they are to us, how much we love them now and always, and how much we pray for them, and with how much effort we seek to pursue, surround and repair the interruption that they themselves have imposed on our communion with Christ.

Referring to the situation of the Church today, the Holy Father affirms that he has a sense that “from some fissure the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God.”  There is doubt, incertitude, problematic, disquiet, dissatisfaction, confrontation.  There is no longer trust of the Church; they trust the first profane prophet who speaks in some journal or some social movement, and they run after him and ask him if he has the formula of true life.  And we are not alert to the fact that we are already the owners and masters of the formula of true life.  Doubt has entered our consciences, and it entered by windows that should have been open to the light.  Science exists to give us truths that do not separate from God, but make us seek him all the more and celebrate him with greater intensity; instead, science gives us criticism and doubt.  Scientists are those who more thoughtfully and more painfully exert their minds.  But they end up teaching us:  “I don’t know, we don’t know, we cannot know.”  The school becomes the gymnasium of confusion and sometimes of absurd contradictions.  Progress is celebrated, only so that it can then be demolished with revolutions that are more radical and more strange, so as to negate everything that has been achieved, and to come away as primitives after having so exalted the advances of the modern world.

This state of uncertainty even holds sway in the Church.  There was the belief that after the Council there would be a day of sunshine for the history of the Church.  Instead, it is the arrival of a day of clouds, of tempest, of darkness, of research, of uncertainty.  We preach ecumenism but we constantly separate ourselves from others.  We seek to dig abysses instead of filling them in.


How has this come about?  The Pope entrusts one of his thoughts to those who are present:  that there has been an intervention of an adverse power.  Its name is the devil, this mysterious being that the Letter of St. Peter also alludes to.  So many times, furthermore, in the Gospel, on the lips of Christ himself, the mention of this enemy of men returns.  The Holy Father observes, “We believe in something that is preternatural that has come into the world precisely to disturb, to suffocate the fruits of the Ecumenical Council, and to impede the Church from breaking into the hymn of joy at having renewed in fullness its awareness of itself.  Precisely for this reason, we should wish to be able, in this moment more than ever, to exercise the function God assigned to Peter, to strengthen the Faith of the brothers.  We should wish to communicate to you this charism of certitude that the Lord gives to him who represents him though unworthily on this earth.”  Faith gives us certitude, security, when it is based upon the Word of God accepted and consented to with our very own reason and with our very own human spirit.  Whoever believes with simplicity, with humility, sense that he is on the good road, that he has an interior testimony that strengthens him in the difficult conquest of the truth.

The Pope concludes:  The Lord shows himself to be light and truth for him who accepts him in his Word, and his Word becomes no longer an obstacle to the truth and the path to well-being, but rather a stair-step upon which we can climb and truly be conquerors in the Lord who reveals himself through the path of faith— this faith that is the anticipation and guarantee of the definitive vision.

By underlining another aspect of contemporary humanity, Paul VI recalls the existence of a great number of humble, simple, pure, upright, strong souls who follow the invitation of St. Peter to be “strong in faith.”  And we should wish, so Paul VI says, that this strength of faith, this sureness, this peace should triumph over all obstacles.  Finally, the Pope invites the faithful to an act of faith that is humble and sincere, to a psychological effort to find in their own hearts the impetus towards a conscious act of adherence:  “Lord, I believe in Your word, I believe in Your revelation, I believe in the one You have given me as witness and guarantor of Your revelation to sense and to prove, with the strength of faith, the anticipation of the blessedness of the life that is promised us with faith.”

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