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Jesuit leader suggests the Devil is symbolic

Fr Arturo Sosa Abascal (C), superior general of the Society of Jesus, at the chapel of the San Ignacio school in Caracas in 2016 (Getty)

Christians have “formed” the Devil as a way of expressing evil, the Jesuit superior general has said.

In an interview with Spanish newspaper El Mundo, Fr Arturo Sosa said: “Christians believe that we are made in the image and likeness of God, and God is free, but He always chooses to do good because He is all goodness.

“We have formed symbolic figures such as the Devil to express evil. Social conditioning can also represent this figure, since there are people who act [in an evil way] because they are in an environment where it is difficult to act to the contrary.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that the Devil is a real being, specifically a fallen angel who rebelled against God: “The Church teaches that Satan was at first a good angel, made by God.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Fr Sosa said Pope Francis had “opened the door” to women’s ministry by establishing a commission to look into the diaconate. Asked about the possibility of women being ordained as priests, he said: “There will come a time when their role is better recognised. The Church of the future will have a different hierarchy, with different ministers.”

Thanks to “feminine creativity”, he said, there could be “Christian communities with a different structure” within 30 years. “The Pope has opened the door to the diaconate by creating a commission. Perhaps they could open more doors afterwards,” he said.

In response, the Italian exorcist Fr Sante Babolin, told ACI Prensa: “The Devil, Satan, exists. Evil is not an abstraction.”

Cardinal says Church ‘partly to blame for the Reformation’

A Vatican cardinal has said that the Reformation might have been averted if bishops at the time had been more open.

Cardinal Kurt Koch, the head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, told an audience of Catholic and Lutheran leaders at the Catholic University of America: “If Martin Luther’s call for reform and repentance had found open ears among the bishops of the time and of the pope in Rome, the reform intended to be initiated by him [Luther] would not have become the Reformation.”

The Swiss cardinal’s speech was part of a symposium held in Washington DC called “The 500th Anniversary of Martin Luther’s Posting of the Ninety-Five Theses Conference: Luther and the Shaping of the Catholic Tradition”.

The cardinal said: “For the fact that the original reform of the Church became instead a Church-dividing reformation, the Catholic Church of the time must bear its share of the blame.”

It wasn’t until later in Luther’s life, Cardinal Koch said, that he began to call into question the role and structure of the Church. As a result, he said, it was not fair to see the posting of Luther’s theses as the moment the Church split.

Bishops hail contraceptive move

Church officials have welcomed a draft ruling from the United States department of health and human services exempting religious groups from the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act.

Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the US bishops’ ad hoc committee for religious liberty, said the draft was “yet to be formally issued” and would require further study, but added that “relief like this is years overdue and would be most welcome”.