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VATICAN CITY, June 29, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — In his homily for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, Pope Francis has once again launched an attack on so-called “rigid” Catholics, seemingly comparing them to the way St. Paul acted before his conversion, claiming that Paul was freed by God from his “rigid and inflexible” religious zeal.

Pope Francis celebrated Mass in the Vatican today — with the largest congregation since the start of COVID-19 restrictions. His homily focused on the concept of freedom, as pertaining to Peter and Paul, and provided an opportunity for another attack on those Catholics he describes as “rigid.”

Both Apostles were described by the Pope as having a “Passover experience,” being set free by God, and thus able to lead lives following Christ.

St. Paul was liberated from “the most oppressive form of slavery, which is slavery to self,” stated the Pope. Not only this, but Paul was “set free from the religious fervour that had made him a zealous defender of his ancestral traditions (cf. Gal 1:14) and a cruel persecutor of Christians.”

Francis alluded to St. Paul’s persecution of the early Church, describing it as a defense of tradition which turned him against God: “Formal religious observance and the intransigent defence of tradition, rather than making him open to the love of God and of his brothers and sisters, had hardened him: he was a fundamentalist.”

“God set him free from this,” declared the Pontiff.

Highlighting the importance of the two great saints of the Church, the Pope stated that they could only “set free the power of the Gospel” because they had already been “set free by their encounter with Christ.”

“Jesus did not judge them or humiliate them,” declared Francis. “Instead, he shared their life with affection and closeness.” However, he continued by noting that Christ in fact “reproached them to make them change.”

Such freedom from “formal religious observance and the intransigent defence of tradition” is something the Pope wished to be extended to the whole Catholic Church.

“We too have been touched by the Lord; we too have been set free. Yet we need to be set free time and time again, for only a free Church is a credible Church.”

Addressing the assembled clergy, the Pope urged them “to be set free from a sense of failure before our occasionally disastrous fishing,” which was an imitation of St. Peter, he claimed.

Pope Francis then launched into what has become a regular attack on the “rigid” Catholics, seeming to suggest that “rigid” Catholics are like St. Paul in his anti-Catholic zeal.

“Like Paul, we are called to be set free from hypocritical outward show, free from the temptation to present ourselves with worldly power rather than with the weakness that makes space for God, free from a religiosity that makes us rigid and inflexible; free from dubious associations with power and from the fear of being misunderstood and attacked.”

Dissident Jesuit-run America Magazine highlighted this aspect of the Pope’s homily, reporting that he had issued a call for the Church to be freed from the “intransigent defence of tradition.”

Nevertheless, it was St. Paul himself who wrote: “Therefore, brethren, stand fast; and hold the traditions which you have learned, whether by word, or by our epistle.” (2 Thessalonians 2:14)

Then, in his letter to Titus, St. Paul stipulated that bishops must faithfully adhere to the doctrine of the Church: “Embracing that faithful word which is according to doctrine, that he may be able to exhort in sound doctrine, and to convince the gainsayers.”

Commenting on the Pope’s interpretation of St. Paul’s theology, popular author Deacon Nick Donnelly wrote: “Pope Bergoglio interprets every page of the Bible through the prism of himself. This is not a St. Paul I recognise, this is Bergoglio Paul.”

Donnelly’s concern was echoed by Eric Sammons, editor-in-chief of Crisis Magazine, who took issue with the Pope’s biblical knowledge: “This sounds like the most fundamentalist Protestant interpretation of St. Paul’s life imaginable. I take that back: even fundamentalist Protestants would cringe at this interpretation.”

Recent attacks against “rigid” Catholics

Pope Francis’ attacks on those he describes as “rigid” have increased in regularity of late, with today’s being the third such attack in as many weeks.

In his general audience last week, the Pope denigrated online preachers he described as “rigid” and who seek “solutions to the crises of today.”

“It is precisely the way of the evil one, of these people who divide, who do not know how to build,” he said.

“Today too there is no shortage of preachers who, especially through the new means of communication, can disturb communities,” continued Pope Francis.  “They present themselves not primarily to announce the Gospel of God who loves man in Jesus, Crucified and Risen, but to insist, as true ‘keepers of the truth’ — so they call themselves — on the best way to be Christians.”

Then, in a June 10 address to Italian seminarians, the Pope warned them of the “perversion” of clericalism and “gratifying spiritualism,” which would “lead to closure and rigidity.”

While the Pope regularly returns to the subject of “rigid” Catholics, Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, revealed the Pope is concerned about the rise of “traditionalist” ideas creeping into “priestly formation.”

Whether such an anecdote is true will perhaps be seen shortly, as Pope Francis has reportedly finished the third draft of a document which would restrict the use of what is known as the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. When speaking to the Conference of Italian Bishops in May, the Pope allegedly gave an example of a young “rigid” priest who wished to learn Latin in order to offer the Traditional Mass, and who was told to learn Spanish instead as it would be more useful.

Writing for The Remnant, Vatican journalist Diane Montagna supported the veracity of the rumor, stating that The Remnant had “independently confirmed that a Vatican document restricting Pope Benedict XVI’s apostolic letter Summorum Pontificum is backed by at least two Vatican cardinals, is in its third draft, and threatens to thwart the growth of the Traditional Latin Mass and other sacraments particularly among diocesan clergy.”

The document is reportedly currently under review at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.