He again asked people Sunday at St. Peter’s Square to pray daily throughout the month to Michael the archangel to “counter the attacks from the devil who wants to divide the Church,” according to a statement from the Vatican. In the Bible, Michael is the leader of the angels who cast Lucifer out of heaven.
The Catholic Church must be “saved from the attacks of the malign one, the great accuser,” Francis said on Sept. 29.
The church must “at the same time be made ever more aware of its guilt, its mistakes, and abuses committed in the present and the past,” he continued.
The Vatican has been rocked recently by allegations of sexual abuse by priests in Germany, the U.S. and Chile. And conservative Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the Vatican’s former ambassador to Washington, claimed in an 11-page document in August that Francis and other church officials knew for years about sexual misconduct by now-former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick with seminarians in the U.S. yet protected him.
Viganò was furious about the pope’s latest messages, claiming in a statement that Francis “compared me to the great accuser, Satan, who sows scandal and division in the Church, though without ever uttering my name,” Reuters reported.
Two weeks after Viganò issued his document, Francis said in a sermon to bishops that the “‘Great Accuser’ has been unchained and is attacking bishops. True, we are all sinners, we bishops,” he said. “He tries to uncover the sins so they are visible in order to scandalize the people.”
The Hebrew word “satan” used in the Bible means “accuser” or “adversary.”
The pope has spoken of the devil a number of times as a real entity, not as simply a representation of evil.
“We should not think of the devil as a myth, a representation, a symbol, a figure of speech or an idea. This mistake would lead us to let down our guard,” Francis wrote in a Vatican document in April.
Reuters contributed reporting.