THE GUARDIAN — Pope Francis said on Wednesday that those who constantly criticize the Catholic church are “friends of the devil”. Speaking to pilgrims from southern Italy, the pontiff said that defects of the church needed to be denounced so they could be corrected, but that those who condemned “without love” were linked to the devil.
“One cannot live a whole life accusing, accusing, accusing, the church,” he said. People who did, he said, were “the friends, cousins and relatives of the devil”.
His remarks come as dozens of victims of clerical sexual abuse gathered in Rome ahead of an unprecedented Vatican summit on the issue. In the lead-up to the four-day event, which begins Thursday and which will be attended by about 180 bishops and cardinals, the victims have criticized the church’s failure to sufficiently address the issue so far.
The Vatican said it hoped that the meeting would mark a turning point. But people who had survived sexual abuse by priests said the church was nowhere close to confronting the deeply entrenched problem.
Peter Isley, spokesperson for Ending Clergy Abuse, an organisation that brings together activists from different countries, told reporters on Wednesday that the victims’ group would demand Pope Francis adopted zero tolerance measures for paedophiles.
“There are two points,” Isley said. “Kicking out abusive priests and expelling the bishops and cardinals who covered them up. Resignations are not enough.”