Angels exist, but they don't have wings or look like the depictions on Christmas cards — instead, they're surrounded by "shards of light," a Roman Catholic expert insists.
"You do not see angels so much as feel their presence," said Father Renzo Lavatori, a church angelologist, during a conference in Rome this week, reports Britain's Sky News
. "They are a bit like sunlight that refracts on you through a crystal vase."
Lavatori said angels are being rediscovered in Christianity, and that their depiction as being winged cherubs comes from art and tradition handed down through the years.
He made his comments during a debate on angels in art, sponsored by an Italian art foundation and held at the Vatican-owned Palazzo della Cancelleria.
Several other experts at the event agreed that the popular depiction of angels as being heavenly beings with ornate, feathery wings is likely not accurate.
Angels don't have a defined form, said Msgr. Giovanni Tonucci, and the lack of a shape allowed artists through the centuries to use their imaginations about angels' appearance.
"You have to understand that these are not real representations. Angels do not have wings or look like cherubs," Lavatori insisted.
People have believed in angels even before the birth of Jesus Christ. The first mention of the word "angelos" was made more than 3,000 years ago, coming from an ancient Greek word meaning "messenger," said art historian Massimo Manfredi.
Monsignor Giovanni Tonucci, head of the Loreto Marian sanctuary, said the lack of a defined form had allowed artists to let their creative imaginations run wild, resulting in the depictions of angels that people have come to recognize.
Lavatori also describes himself as a demonologist, and said angels are even more vital now than ever.
"There is a lot more interference from diabolical forces. That is why you see queues of people outside the exorcists' offices in churches," Lavatori said. "Pope Francis talks more about the devil than about angels and I think rightly so. But it's still early, he will get round to the angels too."
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