Pope Says Criticisms of the Church by Some Conservative Catholics is 'Work of the Devil'

Pope Francis recently spoke of increasing criticism from some conservative members of the Catholic church, denouncing their disapproval as the "work of the devil," the Associated Press reported. His comments, provided in a transcript published Tuesday by the Jesuit journal La Civilta Cattolica, came during a Sept. 12 closed-door meeting with Slovakian Jesuits in the Slovak capital of Bratislava.

Right-leaning members of the church have long opposed Francis' criticism of capitalism, as well as the attention he gives to environmental issues and migrant acceptance, the AP reported. Their issues with the pope and church intensified in July regarding his crackdown on the celebration of the old Latin Mass.

"I personally might merit attacks and insults because I'm a sinner, but the church doesn't deserve this; it's the work of the devil," he said. "Yes there are priests even who make nasty comments about me. Sometimes I lose my patience, especially when they make judgments without entering into a real dialogue. You can't do anything with that."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Pope Denounces Critics
Pope Francis has acknowledged his increasingly vocal right-wing critics, saying their “nasty comments” were the work of the devil and that “some wanted me dead” after his recent intestinal surgery. The pope attends a meeting with priests, religious men and women, seminarians and catechists, at the Cathedral of Saint Martin, in Bratislava, Slovakia, on September 13, 2021. Gregorio Borgia/AP Photo

Francis showed his dark sense of humor throughout the Bratislava meeting, particularly when a priest asked him how he was feeling. The Sept. 12-15 Hungary-Slovakia trip was Francis' first international outing since undergoing surgery in July to remove a 33-centimeter chunk of his large intestine.

"Still alive," Francis quipped. "Even though some wanted me dead. I know there were even meetings among priests who thought the pope was in worse shape than what was being said. They were preparing the conclave."

"Patience! Thank God I'm well," he added.

The comment was a reflection of the intense interest in the pope's health, and the speculation about what would happen if he were to fail, that always accompanies a pontiff but is perhaps more acute with a pope who has attracted vocal opposition from part of the church. After his 10-day hospital stay, Italian media began speculating that Francis might resign and pointed out the need for norms to regulate a second retired pope.

Francis has previously said resigning "didn't even cross my mind."

Francis was also asked about how he deals with divisions and with people who view him with suspicion.

In July, Francis reversed Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and re-imposed restrictions on celebrating the old Latin Mass, saying the move was necessary because the Latin Mass had become a source of division in the church and been exploited on ideological grounds.

In his response, Francis referred to the Latin Mass outcry and noted that there was a "big Catholic television station that continually speaks poorly about the pope." He didn't name it but it could have been a reference to the EWTN media conglomerate, which has been critical of the papacy and in particular Francis' new restrictions on the old Latin Mass.

Francis said his reaction to the judgements is to just preach. " I just go forward without entering into their world of ideas and fantasies," he said.

Pope Francis Amid Travels
Pope Francis denounced conservative critics of his in the Catholic church, calling their judgements the "work of the deveil." The pope rides his Popemobile through a crowd of pilgrims before holding an open-air mass on September 15, 2021 in Sastin, Slovakia. Sean Gallup/Getty Images