Pope Francis: People Constantly Accusing Church of Wrongdoing Are Friends, Relatives to Devil

pope francis accusers linked to devil ahead of sexual abuse meeting
Pope Francis addresses the 42nd session of the Governing Council of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a Rome-based United Nations agency, on Thursday in Rome. Ahead of a meeting of bishops about the sexual abuse problem in the Church, Francis said constant accusers of the church are linked to the devil. TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images

Pope Francis acknowledged that problems with the Catholic Church need to be reported, but said those who constantly attack the church are friends or related to the devil.

While addressing pilgrims from the Italian diocese of Benevento on Wednesday, Francis said people cannot live their whole lives constantly accusing the church of wrongdoings. He referenced the Bible and rhetorically asked who the office of the "Great Accuser" belongs to.

"I'm sorry, I did not understand … I cannot hear well … the devil!" the Pope said, according to ANSA. "And those who spend their lives accusing, accusing and accusing are ­— I won't say children, because the devil doesn't have any — but they are the friends, cousins and relatives of the devil."

The Pope added that when things aren't right, people have to report the defects in order to correct wrongs that were committed. However, he said that when defects are reported, they're made known and the person loves the church.

Over the last year or so, the Catholic Church has faced accusations of sexual misconduct within the church, with some dioceses releasing their own lists of priests and bishops who have been accused. In August, the Diocese of Harrisburg shared a list of 71 people who were accused of child sexual abuse. Other dioceses followed suit, including the Diocese of Oakland, which listed 45 people, and the Diocese of El Paso, which had 39 names on its list.

This isn't the first time Francis addressed the accusations or the first time he referenced the "Great Accuser." Shortly after Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò accused Francis of covering up sexual abuse allegations leveled against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, the Pope urged people to pray because the devil was at work.

During a mass at the Casa Santa Marta in September, Francis said it seemed like the "Great Accuser" was unchained and trying to uncover sins so people are scandalized. In response, the Pope told everyone to pray for all the bishops around the world and him, according to Vatican News.

On Thursday, over 100 bishops from around the world will meet in Rome to address the "Protection of Minors in the Church," according to NPR. Francis called the three-day meeting and Vatican News reported it will include plenary sessions, working groups, moments of common prayer, listening to testimonies, a penitential liturgy and a final Eucharistic celebration.

"It is fundamental for the Holy Father that when the Bishops who will come to Rome have returned to their countries and their dioceses that they understand the laws to be applied and that they take the necessary steps to prevent abuse, to care for the victims, and to make sure that no case is covered up or buried," the director ad interim of the Holy See Press Office, Alessandro Gisotti, said.

The meeting's "concrete purpose" is that bishops around the world understand what preventative measures need to be taken and what they need to do to combat the problem of sexual abuse of minors.