Pope Francis: The devil 'has no chance' against prayer
In a recently published interview, Pope Francis said he called in exorcists when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires and warned that the devil is always trying to attack everyone, Vatican News reported earlier this month.
The Holy Father, as he has done many times in his pontificate, emphasized that the devil is real. He added that Church leaders are among his favorite targets but that prayer is the best defense against such attacks.
"What is certain is that the devil tries to attack everyone without distinction and tries above all to strike those who have more responsibilities in the Church or in society," the pope said in an interview featured in the book "Esorcisti contro Satana" ("Exorcists against Satan"), released April 12 in Italian.
The book, written by Italian journalist Fabio Marchese Ragona and at this time published only in Italian, features the testimony of exorcists and victims of diabolic possession along with the interview with Pope Francis. When asked if he had ever performed an exorcism as pope, the Holy Father replied that he had not but that he had requested the services of exorcists when he served as bishop in Argentina.
"When I was archbishop of Buenos Aires I had several cases of people who came to me saying they were possessed. I sent them for a consultation with two good 'specialist' priests: They are not healers but exorcists," the pope said.
"Both of them later told me that only two or three of those people were really victims of diabolical possession. The others suffered from diabolical obsession, which is quite different because they didn't have the devil in their bodies. This should be specified," he said.
In reference to the testimony of a young nun suffering from demonic possession who said that the devil said he hated the pope, the Holy Father said that, as a Christian, he would expect that.
"It is possible that I get on the devil's nerves, because I try to follow the Lord and do what the Gospel says. And that annoys him. At the same time, he is certainly happy when I commit some sin. He seeks man's failure, but he has no chance if there is prayer."
The devil, he said, is powerless when someone prays and follows Christ.
"We are human beings and he always tries to attack us. It is painful, but in the face of prayer, he has no chance!" the pope said.
"And then, yes, it is true, as St. Paul VI said, that the devil can also enter the Temple of God, to sow discord and turn one against the other: Divisions and attacks are always the work of the devil. He always tries to insinuate himself to corrupt the heart and mind of man. The only salvation is to follow the path indicated by Christ," Pope Francis said.
Pope Francis has frequently spoken of the devil in his homilies and public speeches. In his remarks to Vatican employees last Christmas, he warned against the devil in the form of a "well-mannered demon" who tempts us to consider ourselves "safe, better than others, no longer in need of conversion."
He continued with this theme in the interview, referring to "polite" demons that attack those who do not engage an examination of conscience, a spiritual practice recommended by St. Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuits.
"The soul, not taking care to examine the conscience, doesn't take any notice, or out of spiritual lukewarmness lets them in. These demons are terrible. Because they kill you. It is the worst possession. Spiritual worldliness covers all these things. There is no escape: The devil either destroys directly with wars and injustices, or he does it politely, in a very diplomatic way, as Jesus recounts. Discernment is needed," the Holy Father said.