Pope Paul VI and The Smoke of Satan


I have long heard about Pope Paul VI having referred to the “smoke of Satan” having entered the Church.  Usually most references to it do not mention when it was said and in what context.  The quote apparently was said on June 29, 1972 by Pope Paul VI on the ninth anniversary of his coronation during a homily given at a mass for the solemnity of Saint Peter and Saint Paul.  The Italian text is here.  As far as I know there is no official translation.  On November 13, 2006 Jimmy Atkin posted at his blog  a translation done of the homily by Father Stephanos Pedrano.  Please note that the text that is translated is a summary of what the Pope said and not a word for word transcript of what the Pope said.  Father Pedrano’s translation is as follows (I have underlined and placed in red the portion of the text that refers to Satan):    




THURSDAY, 29 JUNE 1972    

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.”    

I very much wish that we had the actual words spoken by the Pope on this occasion rather than a summary.  What was the Pope attempting to convey when he said this?

Philip Blosser at his blog Musings of a Pertinacious Papist posted this on February 21, 2009:

I was talking about this with one of my colleagues about this a couple days ago, who described the event in detail, saying that the Pope departed from the text of his homily at the point of his vision or trance. He sent me the following with permission to post it online:

  In his homily given on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul on June 29, 1972, Pope Paul VI made a famous remark about the “smoke of Satan” entering into the temple of God. The full text of the homily was not reproduced in the Vatican collection of Paul VI’s teachings (Insegnamenti di Paulo VI Vol. X, 1972). Instead, a summary of the homily was given. Within the summary, however, there are some direct quotes from the Pontiff. Two of these are memorable for their references to Satan and the preternatural.

The Holy Father asserts that he has the feeling that “from some fissure the smoke of Satan has entered into the temple of God” (da qualche fessura sia entrato il fumo di Satana nel tempio di Dio (Insegnamenti [1972], 707).

Later, he is quoted as saying: “We believe … that something preternatural has come into the world specifically to disturb, to suffocate the fruits of the Ecumenical Council, and to prevent the Church from breaking out in a hymn of joy for having recovered in fullness the awareness of herself (Crediamo … in qualcosa di preternaturale venunto nel mondo proprio per turbare, per soffocare i frutti del Concilio Ecumenico, e per impedire che la Chiesa prorompesse nell’inno della gioia di aver riavuto in pienezza la coscienza di sé (Insegnamenti [1972], 708).

(notes and translations by R. Fastiggi)

In his general audience of Nov. 15, 1972, Paul VI addressed in more detail the reality of the Devil. He stated that one of the greatest needs of the Church today is the defense against that evil we call the Devil. (Insegnamenti [1972], 1168-1173).

The November 15, 1972 address was a great warning by the Pope for Catholics to be aware of the Devil and to be armed against him:

WHAT ARE the Church’s greatest needs at the present time? Don’t be surprised at Our answer and don’t write it off as simplistic or even superstitious: one of the Church’s greatest needs is to be defended against the evil we call the Devil.

Before clarifying what We mean, We would like to invite you to open your minds to the light that faith casts on the vision of human existence, a vision which from this observation point of faith reaches out to immense distances and penetrates to unique depths. To tell the truth, the picture that we are invited to behold with an all-encompassing realism is a very beautiful one. It is the picture of creation, the work of God. He Himself admired its substantial beauty as an external reflection of His wisdom and power.[1]

Christian vision of the universe

Then there is the interesting picture of the dramatic history of mankind, leading to the history of the Redemption and of Christ; the history of our salvation, with its stupendous treasures of revelation, prophecy and holiness, of life elevated to a supernatural level, of eternal promises.[2] Knowing how to look at this picture cannot help but leave us enchanted.[3] Everything has a meaning, a purpose, an order; and everything gives us a glimpse of a Transcendent Presence, a Thought, a Life and ultimately a Love, so that the universe, both by reason of what it is and of what it is not, offers us an inspiring, joyful preparation for something even more beautiful and more perfect.[4] The Christian vision of the universe and of life is therefore triumphantly optimistic; and this vision fully justifies our joy and gratitude for being alive, so that we sing forth our happiness in celebrating God’s glory.[5]

The mystery of evil

But is this vision complete and correct? Are the defects in the world of no account? What of the things that don’t work properly in our lives? What of suffering and death, wickedness, cruelty and sin? In a word, what of evil? Don’t we see how much evil there is in the world-especially moral evil, which goes against man and against God at one and the same time, although in different ways? Isn’t this a sad spectacle, an unexplainable mystery? And aren’t we-the lovers of the Word, the people who sing of the Good, we believers-aren’t we the ones who are most sensitive and most upset by our observation and experience of evil?

We find evil in the realm of nature, where so many of its expressions seem to speak to us of some sort of disorder. Then we find it among human beings, in the form of weakness, frailty, suffering, death and something worse: the tension between two laws-one reaching for the good, the other directed toward evil. St. Paul points out this torment in humiliating fashion to prove our need a salvific grace, for the salvation brought by Christ,[6] and also our great good fortune in being saved. Even before this, a pagan poet had described this conflict within the very heart of man: “I see what is better and I approve of it, but then I follow the worse.”[7]

We come face to face with sin which is a perversion of human freedom and the profound cause of death because it involves detachment from God, the source of life. And then sin in its turn becomes the occasion and the effect of interference in us and our work by a dark, hostile agent, the Devil. Evil is not merely an absence of something but an active force, a living, spiritual being that is perverted and that perverts others. It is a terrible reality, mysterious and frightening.

Seeking an explanation

It is a departure from the picture provided by biblical Church teaching to refuse to knowledge the Devil’s existence; to regard him as a self-sustaining principle who, unlike other creatures, does not owe his origin to God; or to explain the Devil as a pseudo-reality, a conceptual, fanciful personification of the unknown causes of our misfortunes. When the problem of evil is seen in all its complexity and in its absurdity from the point of view of our limited minds, it becomes an obsession. It poses the greatest single obstacle to our religious understanding of the universe It is no accident that St. Augustine was bothered by this for years: “I sought the source of evil, and I found no explanation.”[9]

Thus we can see how important an awareness of evil is if we are to have a correct Christian concept of the world, life and salvation. We see this first in the unfolding of the Gospel story at the beginning of Christ’s public life. Who can forget the highly significant description of the triple temptation of Christ? Or the many episodes in the Gospel where the Devil crosses the Lord’s path and figures in His teaching?[10] And how could we forget that Christ, referring three times to the Devil as His adversary, describes him as “the prince of this world”?[11]

Other New Testament passages

The lurking shadow of this wicked presence is pointed up in many, many passages of the New Testament. St. Paul calls him the “god of this world,”[12] and warns us of the struggle we Christians must carry on in the dark, not only against one Devil, but against a frightening multiplicity of them. “I put on the armor of God,” the Apostle tells us, “that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the Principalities and the Powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness on high.”[13]

Many passages in the Gospel show us that we are dealing not just with one Devil, but with many.[14] But the principal one is Satan, which means the adversary, the enemy; and along with him are many others, all of them creatures of God, but fallen because they rebelled and were damned[15] — a whole mysterious world, convulsed by a most unfortunate drama about which we know very little.

Man’s fatal tempter

There are many things we do know, however, about this diabolical world, things that touch on our lives and on the whole history of mankind. The Devil is at the origin of mankind’s first misfortune- he was the wily, fatal tempter involved in the first sin, the original sin.[16] That fall of Adam gave the Devil a certain dominion over man, from which only Christ’s Redemption can free us. It is a history that is still going on: let us recall the exorcisms at Baptism, and the frequent references in Sacred Scripture and in the liturgy to the aggressive and oppressive “power of darkness.”[17] The Devil is the number one enemy, the preeminent tempter.

So we know that this dark disturbing being exists and that he is still at work with his treacherous cunning; he is the hidden enemy who sows errors and misfortunes in human history. It is worth recalling the revealing Gospel parable of the good seed and the cockle, for it synthesizes and explains the lack of logic that seems to preside over our contradictory experiences: “An enemy has done this.”[18] He is “a murderer from the beginning, . . . and the father of lies,” as Christ defines him.[19] He undermines man’s moral equilibrium with his sophistry. He is the malign, clever seducer who knows how to make his way into us through the senses, the imagination and the libido, through utopian logic, or through disordered social contacts in the give and take of our activities, so that he can bring about in us deviations that are all the more harmful because they seem to conform to our physical or mental makeup, or to our profound, instinctive aspirations.

Ignoring the Devil

This matter of the Devil and of the influence he can exert on individuals as well as on communities, entire societies or events, is a very important chapter of Catholic doctrine which should be studied again, although it is given little attention today. Some think a sufficient compensation can be found in psychoanalytic and psychiatric studies or in spiritualistic experiences, which are unfortunately so widespread in some countries today.

People are afraid of falling back into old Manichean theories, or into frightening deviations of fancy and superstition. Nowadays they prefer to appear strong and unprejudiced to pose as positivists, while at the same time lending faith to many unfounded magical or popular superstitions or, worse still, exposing their souls-their baptized souls, visited so often by the Eucharistic Presence and inhabited by the Holy Spirit!-to licentious sensual experiences and to harmful drugs, as well as to the ideological seductions of fashionable errors. These are cracks through which the Evil One can easily penetrate and change the human mind.

This is not to say that every sin is directly due to diabolical action;[20] but it is true that those who do not keep watch over themselves with a certain moral rigor[21] are exposed to the influence of the “mystery of iniquity” cited by St. Paul[22] which raises serious questions about our salvation.

Our doctrine becomes uncertain, darkness obscured as it is by the darkness surrounding the Devil. But our curiosity, excited by the certainly of his multiple existence, has a right to raise two questions. Are there signs, and what are they, of the presence of diabolical action? And what means of defense do we have against such an insidious danger?

 Presence of diabolical action

We have to be cautious about answering the first question, even though the signs of the Evil One seem to be very obvious at times.[23] We can presume that his sinister action is at work where the denial of God becomes radical, subtle and absurd; where lies become powerful and hypocritical in the face of evident truth; where love is smothered by cold, cruel selfishness; where Christ’s name is attacked with conscious, rebellious hatred,[24] where the spirit of the Gospel is watered down and rejected where despair is affirmed as the last word; and so forth.

But this diagnosis is too extensive and difficult for Us to attempt to probe and authenticate it now. It holds a certain dramatic interest for everyone, however, and has been the subject of some famous passages in modern literature.[25] The problem of evil remains one of the greatest and most lasting problems for the human mind, even after the victorious response given to it by Jesus Christ. “We know,” writes St. John the Evangelist, “that we are of God, and the whole world is in the power of the evil one.”[26]

Defense against the Devil

It is easier to formulate an answer to the other question- what defense, what remedy should we use against the Devil’s action? — even though it remains difficult to put into practice. We could say: everything that defends us from sin strengthens us by that very fact against the invisible enemy. Grace is the decisive defense. Innocence takes on the aspect of strength. Everyone recalls how often the apostolic method of teaching used the armor of a soldier as a symbol for the virtues that can make a Christian invulnerable.[27] The Christian must be a militant; he must be vigilant and strong;[28] and he must at times make use of special ascetical practices to escape from certain diabolical attacks. Jesus teaches us this by pointing to “prayer and fasting” as the remedy.[29] And the Apostle suggests the main line we should follow: “Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. “[30]

With an awareness, therefore, of the opposition that individual souls, the Church and the world must face at the present time, we will try to give both meaning and, effectiveness to the familiar invocation in our principal prayer: “Our Father . . . deliver us from evil!”

May Our apostolic blessing also be a help toward achieving this.


1 See Gn 1, 10 etc.
2 See l?Eph 1, 10.
3 See St. Augustine, Soliloquies.
4 See l Cor 2, 9; 13, 12; Rom 8, 19-2:3.
5 See the Gloria of the Mass.
6 See Rom 7.
7 Ovid, Met. 7, 19.
8 Rom 5, 12.
9 Confessions VII, 5, 7, 11 etc.: PL :32, 736, 739.
10 For example. Mt 12, 43. 11 Jn 12, 31; 14, 30; 16, 11.
12 Cor 4, 4.
13 Eph 6, 11-12.
14 Lk. 11, 21; Mk 5, 9.
15 See DS 800-128.
16 Gn 3; Wis 1, 24.
17 See Lk 22, 53; Col 1, 13.
18 Mt 13, 28.
19 See Jn 8, 44-45.
20 See S. Th. 1, 104, 3.
21 See Mt 12, 45; Eph 6, 11.
22 2 Thes 2, 3-12.
23 See Tertullian, Apol. 23.
24 See I Cor 16, 22; 12, 3.
25 See, for example, the works of Bernanos, studied by Ch. Moeller, Litter. du XX siecle, I, p. 39, ff.; P. Macchi, Il volto del male in Bernanos; see also Satan, Etudes Carmelitaines, Desclee de Br. (1948).
26 1 Jn 5, 19.
27 See Rom 13, 12; Eph 6, 11, 14 17; I Thes 5, 8.
28 1 Pt 5, 8.
29 Mk 9, 29.
30 Rom 12, 21; Mt 13, 29.  

On May 15, 2008, Father Z had a post here examining a statement by Virgilio Cardinal Noe, master of ceremonies under Pope Paul VI who stated the following:

You from Petrus, have gotten a real scoop here, because I am in a position to reveal, for the first time, what Paul VI desired to denounce with that statement.  Here it is.  Papa Montini, for Satan, meant to include all those priests or bishops and cardinals who didn’t render worship to the Lord by celebrating badly (mal celebrando) Holy Mass because of an errant interpretation of the implementation of the Second Vatican Council.  He spoke of the smoke of Satan because he maintained that those priests who turned Holy Mass into dry straw in the name of creativity, in reality were possessed of the vainglory and the pride of the Evil One.  so, the smoke of Satan was nothing other than the mentality which wanted to distort the traditional and liturgical canons of the Eucharistic ceremony.”

Perhaps.  However, when read in conjunction with the November 15, 1972 address, the smoke of Satan statement appears  to have been intended by the Pope to be a much broader warning to the Church. On the first Sunday in Lent in the Gospel reading we listened to the temptation of Christ by Satan.  Paul VI’s statement is a salutary reminder that the temptation continues for each of us individually and for the Church here on Earth. 



31 Responses to Pope Paul VI and The Smoke of Satan

  1. Fascinating context. Thanks for putting this together.

  2. Steve Skojec says:

    One would think that if Pope Paul had conviction about this preternatural force had entered the Church in order to disturb and destroy, he might have reaffirmed the protections put in place by his predecessor, Pope Leo XIII, who had a vision of the same, and thus composed the prayer to St. Michael and made it a universal invocation after Mass.

    Why would anyone who believed what is written here suppress that prayer? It boggles the mind.

  3. Steve Skojec says:

    The vision of Leo XII, roughly, was as follows (for those unaware of it):

    The guttural voice, the voice of Satan in his pride, boasted to Our Lord: “I can destroy your Church.”

    The gentle voice of Our Lord: “You can? Then go ahead and do so.”

    Satan: “To do so, I need more time and more power.”

    Our Lord: “How much time? How much power?”

    Satan: “75 to 100 years, and a greater power over those who will give themselves over to my service.”

    Our Lord: “You have the time, you will have the power. Do with them what you will.”

  4. Peregrinus says:

    What are the “doubt, incertitude, difficulties (problematica), disquiet, etc.” that Pope Paul VI observed within the Church except the effects of the modernism Pope Pius X had unsuccessfully labored to root out of its “heart and bosom” (see Pascendi dominici gregis)?

    Diabolical forces have certainly promoted the subjectivism, relativism, cynicism and anti-religion of our age. The Church has and will continue to fight against these forces and the movements they support; and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it, regardless of the years allotted for doing so.

  5. Joe Hargrave says:


    I have read that Pope Paul VI was sometimes confronted with changes made by Bugnini that he didn’t even understand – but was told that he had approved – and would begin to weep.

    Yet when Dietrich von Hildebrand presented him with a critique of the reforms, a critique which remains unpublished to this day, by the way, Paul VI was irritable and dismissive.

    There was something very strange occurring. Who can say what it was? I don’t want to descend into the swamp of unfounded speculation. But his behavior wasn’t consistent for a man with firm authority, and more consistent with a man conscious of his subordinate role to some higher human authority that he did not always agree with.

  6. John Henry says:

    It seems clear that Pope Paul VI felt relatively helpless during much of this time period. I have a lot of sympathy for him, although at times it seems to me that he spent a lot of time lamenting the things he could not change, rather than focusing on the many things he could – but, of course, hindsight is 20/20, the Church is in better shape now than it was then imo. What a gift it was to have John Paul II, with his energetic and forceful call to “Be Not Afraid” follow so shortly after Pope Paul VI’s pontificate.

  7. Allan Wafkowski says:

    The subject of Pope Paul VI is a difficult one for me. In his Credo he reaffirmed what the Church had always taught, but he placed or allowed to be placed into power people of a savage liberal bent who caused in large part the events he was later to lament. The changes in the Mass must have given him pause–and after he dumped Annibale Bugnini in Iran, didn’t he think to closely examine the work Bugnini did in forming the Mass changes?

    It’s not my place to judge Pope Paul, but he has become an enigma to me.

  8. Donald R. McClarey says:

    I think that Paul VI felt that a certain course had been set and that he had to follow it, although he was well aware, and mourned, much of the negative fallout that followed Vatican II. To his credit he took a bold and decisive stand on Humanae Vitae. Although widely ignored by many Catholics, I think future historians will look back at this decision as a turning point which prevented the Church from going down the path that the Anglicans and other Protestant denominations have gone down, the path of unending compromise of traditional Christian moral standards until nothing is left to compromise.

  9. Allan Wafkowski says:

    Donald, I believe that Humanae Vitae was one of the most important documents of our age. The Holy Spirit was surely at work.

  10. GodsGadfly says:

    I read the translation when it came out, in Akin’s blog and other locations, and it seems to me he’s talking about certain philosophical positions that have infected the Church-the same philosophical positions von Hildebrand referred to as the titular “Trojan Horse in the City of God.”

  11. therese says:

    In ‘Caritas in Veritate’, Benedict writes in honor of Paul VI’s ‘Populorum Progressio’ as well as ‘Humanae Vitae’ and another Paul VI encyclical, the name of which escapes me at this moment.

    Benedict goes to some length in his last encyclical to highlight the depth of Paul’s teaching and to connect the dots for us so we can better implement in today’s society 40 years after Populorum Progressio was written.

    I’d like to respectfully suggest that the problem is not with the Popes that the Holy Spirit has given us over the last half century. The problem is much more with the, at best, lukewarm reception their abundantly rich teachings have found among the people who claim to be Catholic.

    We are more often than not like spoiled teenagers who can only see life in terms of themselves. E.g., what was to prevent Catholics and/or parishes from continuing to say the St Michael’s prayer after Mass? If most parishioners weren’t hurtling over each other to get out of the parking lot, they could easily take 60 seconds & do it right now. We do after every Mass in our parish.

    The point is, at some point, we have to stop blaming the hierarchy & do a sober self-assessment. Its lent, after all.

  12. Steve Skojec says:

    I’d like to respectfully suggest that the problem is not with the Popes that the Holy Spirit has given us over the last half century.

    I’m still trying to figure out how the notion that popes and councils would be guided by the Holy Spirit to keep them free from doctrinal error became almost universally construed as some un-proclaimed dogma that their very election or convocation (respectively) is inspired and directed by the Holy Spirit.

    These are very different things. God’s permissive will may allow a bad pope to be elected or a poor council to be convened and still guide either through the principles that keep the Church’s teaching infallible – out of respect for the free will of the men who are running the Church – but that isn’t to say that’s what He wants. He can draw good from evil. I, for example, think that Pope Paul VI’s papacy did more harm to the Church than good, but there were moments – like Humane Vitae – that seemed so unexpected from a pope so (seemingly) beholden to progressive forces in the Church that it almost has to be a product of divine guidance.

    If there is some teaching I’m unaware of indicating that it’s the Holy Spirit (not the curia) who elects a pope, or that it’s the Holy Spirit (not a pope acting outside of his infallible authority) who decides to call a council, I’d like very much to study it.

  13. Steve Skojec says:


    Yes, that was a typo. See above, I referenced him correctly in my other comment.

  14. Nancy says:

    So many here are referring to Pope Leo XIII. As he was a contributing factor to the church, in way of making many aware of the “Smoke of Satan,” I believe many miss the point. My personal belief is that Pope Paul VI was referring to the pedaphilia that darkened Holy Mother Church in the years that followed. I also believe that Vatican II opened the door to such atrocities. In the years to follow these dark days, the church will once again be a “BEACON OF LIGHT” to usher in our Lord. The “Gates of Hell shall NOT Prevail.”

  15. Virginia Smith says:

    I agree….Satan has arrived, and has been at the altar for some time. It is up to us to keep the faith
    and pass it on………..CATHOLIC ALL THE WAY

  16. Joe Hargrave says:


    Your personal belief is most likely wrong. As I pointed out in one of my recent articles for Inside Catholic, a cardinal close to Paul VI explained what he really meant by it:


    “all those priests or bishops and cardinals who didn’t render worship to the Lord by celebrating badly (mal celebrando) Holy Mass because of an errant interpretation of the implementation of the Second Vatican Council. ”

    Granted, this is hearsay. But I don’t see why a cardinal would publicly lie about it.

  17. Peter Kim says:

    Sunday, March 14, 2010 A.D. at 9:17 pm
    Looking back to the history of church, there were always positive repercussions after dark periods.
    Trent council was born out of protestant reformation.
    It was also followed by great Saints such as St. Francis
    of Sales, St. Louis De Montfort and many others.
    There were onslaughts of liberal movement by theologians, Hans Kung, Schillebeecka and Karl Rahner, and many others.
    but Council revived by subsequent great popes.
    Karol Wojtyla(Pope John Paul II) was a very trusted and close friend to Pope Paul 6. Wheel of Church keeps on rolling through the cycles of desolation and consolation towards the victory of church.
    I believe The Holy Spirit prevails
    against the negative tide. That is the Good News we all look forward to in any given situation.

  18. Ed Stoltz says:

    The context of the summary seems to indicate that the disappointment was in the lack of joy received from the council. Isn’t this what Jesus says in His parable of the seed on shallow ground which is received with joy and the enemy snatches it up because the roots weren’t deep enough? I remember when the article came out when Pope Paul said these things and the context was that the smoke came in when the windows of the Church were opened, clearly a reference to Vatican II. It is as if the Church wandered away from its protection and was thus injured, I did not say destroyed, just injured. It seems that this Holy pope comes to grips with the reality but is loathe to admit that the Council led to it. I am sure it is more the “spirit of Vatican II” which was used to wreak havoc by the liberals, more than the council itself.

  19. francis says:

    the pope himself has clarified the statement in an interview with a friend. The pope said quite clearly and explicitly in that interview he was referring to the entity and enemy as Satan so there would be no doubt in anyone’s mind he was not being abstract. i think this article has an agenda i.e. many churchmen have a hatred of the supernatural.
    francis nelson gould

  20. […] found this article on a blog, and so I’ll make it available here for citation and future reference. Paul […]

  21. Mary says:

    The smoke of Satan has an obvious reference to smoke entering the mystical body, like a church building smoke clouds the view. Wherever the fissurre is the church no longer has the light and the clarity that many are seeking in Jesus, because corruption is apparent in the heirarchy. If priests truly were examples of Jesus Christ and if the faithful really believed the creed then life and light would be abundant. However, it has become abundantly clear that corruption is so deep and has been for so long that many do not see Jesus in the church. I believe Jesus left the church a long time ago and the only thing holding it together is her traditions. That is why many look at the traditions and do not see the truth of Christ in them and they look for it elsewhere. To believe in some of our traditions we have to make an irrational leap of faith. For catholics cannot explain certain doctrines not found in Scripture and when they argue, they reply well you must put your faith in the church. However, many Christians realize that is not part of divine revelation and when they see such power hunger prelates and cold prideful priests they run in the other direction looking for Jesus.

  22. vee carstensen says:

    i’m not catholic-never have been. question-for hundreds of years you guys haven’t been teaching people JUST to read the Bible. the catholics i have known in my life don’t know anything about the old testament, nor do they know that Jesus Christ came here to set a perfect example for all mankind, before, during, and after his life on this earth. please don’t sell starbucks coffee and have an ATM machine in your churches. i hate to tell ya’ but the Son didn’t like that back then-why would it be o.k. now?………THANKS……..vee

  23. vee carstensen says:

    oh and by the way-satan hunkers up to the people that are attached to God. he doesn’t waste his time with people that aren’t pursuing the Creator.

  24. Pauline Kowalski says:

    The smoke of Satan came into the Church with Paul VI and the Second Vatican Council. We do NOT have a valid Mass since 1962; Russia has NOT been consecrated to the Blessed Mother, as she asked; the Third Secret of Fatima has not been revealed in its entirety; and mankind is about to witness/live the annihilation and destruction of the world as we know it. Read Revelation; read Daniel and know we are in the “last hours, as we know time.” God bless all and hang in there with Jesus and Mary.

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