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Seattle U professor: Why Pope Francis is talking about the devil

KIRO Radio's Dave Ross asked theologians at Seattle University about Pope Francis' beliefs in Satan, and many of them pointed to his Latin American roots. (AP Photo/File)

Pope Francis has a lot of non-Catholic fans who respond positively to his views on wealth, contraception, and gay marriage. But the new-school pontiff is still fighting something those more liberal followers tend to dismiss: an old-school devil.

Recently, Pope Francis drew attention for his belief in a devil, or Satan, that is very real. He attended a meeting of exorcists, something that in the modern era, is unique for a pope to do.

“For Pope Francis, when he speaks about the devil, he certainly means an embodiment that deconstructs and reconfigures human life in ways that are destructive,” explains Dr. Michael Trice.

Trice is a professor of theology at Seattle University and teaches a course about Hell, but he starts each semester by telling his students, “There won’t be a field trip.”

While the Pope’s fans in America haven’t been emphasizing the devil in the details of Francis’ beliefs, when KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross began to ask theologians at Seattle University about it, many pointed to his Latin American roots.

According to Trice, Francis’ interpretation of the devil does come from two places, one of which is in the context of Latin America. The once-Cardinal of Buenos Aires’ parishioners speak about suffering and tragedy and with the accompaniment of the devil.

The second, believes Trice, is a form of resistance to a Western European allegorical interpretation of the devil: a temptation, and a force that is “disembodied and slippery.”

“(Pope Francis is) inviting the conversation,” says Trice. “He’s suggesting that what’s tearing apart the fabric of our lives, whether that be inside our humanity, or in our families and our communities – has a name, and he gives it a name.”

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