ROME, Italy — Pope Francis condemned hypocrisy Wednesday, insisting that a hypocrite “does not know how to love.”
“Hypocrites are people who pretend, flatter and deceive because they live with a mask over their faces and do not have the courage to face the truth,” the pope told pilgrims and tourists gathered in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall for his weekly General Audience.
“For this reason, they are not capable of truly loving: a hypocrite does not know how to love,” the pontiff continued. “They limit themselves to living out of egoism and do not have the strength to show their hearts transparently.”
While hypocrisy is at work in many situations, such as the work place and politics, hypocrisy in the Church “is particularly detestable,” he said, and “unfortunately, hypocrisy exists in the Church and there are many hypocritical Christians and ministers.”
The pope drew inspiration from a reading from Saint Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, where Paul recounts having reproached Saint Peter in front of the community at Antioch for behaving hypocritically.
Saint Peter — Francis declared — had been influenced by “fundamentalistic preachers” who insisted that Gentile converts to Christianity needed to be circumcised and therefore be “under the Law” with all its prescriptions
Peter had been eating with Christians of pagan origin without any problem but ceased doing so when some circumcised Christians from Jerusalem arrived in the city “because he did not want to incur their criticism,” the pope added.
Peter’s error was “that of paying more attention to criticism, of making a good impression.”
This is hypocrisy, the pope said, which “can be called the fear of the truth.”
“It is like putting makeup on the soul, like putting makeup on your behaviour, putting makeup on how to proceed: this is not the truth,” he said.
“Pretending leads to this: to half-truths. And half-truths are a sham because the truth is the truth or it is not the truth. Half-truths are a way of acting that is not true,” he said.
“If you have some time today, pick up the twenty-third chapter of the Gospel of Matthew and see how many times Jesus says: ‘hypocrites, hypocrites, hypocrites,’ this is how hypocrisy manifests itself,” Francis said.