As he concluded the synod on young people, Pope Francis, speaking off the cuff, recalled the persecution of the Christians in the Middle East and in other places; he then went on to strongly condemn “another type of persecution, the continuous accusations to smear the church,” in what a senior Vatican official told America appeared to be a reference to the forces that are seeking to divide the church today and those using the abuse scandals to further other agendas.
Pope Francis told some 350 synod participants from over 130 countries that “the church is not dirty. Her children are, but not the mother. Our mother is holy, but we her children are sinners” and “because of our sins, the Great Accuser always takes advantage.”
Speaking with passion, he recalled, as he had in early September, that “the first chapter of the Book of Job tells us that he (the Great Accuser) wanders around the world trying to accuse” and he added that “at this moment, he is accusing us strongly. And this accusation is being transformed into persecution.”
Though he did not pinpoint any particular person as the accuser, sources say Pope Francis may have been referring to any of the number of the accusations in recent months, including more recently those from Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò and those aligned with him, who have accused senior Vatican officials under the pontificates of Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis of cover-up of abuse and corruption, as well as those other who are taking advantage of the abuse scandals for other agendas. He is not criticizing those who bring justifiable charges of abuse and cover up against the church or its cardinals and bishops, but rather those who are using these scandals—”the sins of her children”—for other purposes, seeking to smear the church and its moral authority in various fields.
“The church is not dirty," Francis said. "Her children are, but not the mother."
Pope Francis told the synod participants, and the wider community of believers, “this is the moment to defend the mother, with prayer.” He recalled that it was for this reason that he has appealed to Catholics worldwide to pray the rosary in the month of October and to pray to the Archangel Michael and to the Virgin Mary. He urged them, “Let us continue to do so. It is a difficult moment because, through our sins, the Great Accuser seeks to attack the mother, but the mother is not to be touched.”
He was given a standing ovation when he finished speaking.