Why Pope Francis sees the devil at work even in the war in Ukraine

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There’s always something a bit uncomfortable about mentioning the Devil. 

Maybe that’s why popular sayings warn us not to “speak of the Devil or he’ll appear”. Or why we prefer to call him by one of his many aliases: Prince of Darkness, Fallen Angel, Old Nick, or quite simply, the Evil One.

Pope Francis has no such qualms. He speaks openly about how we should always be on the lookout for the Father of Lies – even when it comes to how we approach liturgical traditions…

'When liturgical life starts to become too much of a divisive element, it begins smelling of the Devil, the Deceiver.'

Note that even Pope Francis uses a pseudonym for the Angel of Darkness, calling him the “Deceiver”. Because deception is what the Archfiend is best at – as the Pope made clear when he commented on the Gospel during the Chrism Mass during Holy Week this year…

'Once I talked about so-called 'well-mannered' demons, the ones Jesus says are worse than the one that was cast out before. Yes, they are 'polite', they ring the doorbell, they enter and little by little take possession of the house. We must be vigilant, because these are our idols'.

The Antichrist’s greatest deception, according to the Pope, is to fool us into believing he doesn’t exist at all – that he’s nothing but folklore and fallacy, a story meant to scare the children…

'This generation, like so many others, has been led to believe that the Devil is a myth, a figure, an idea, the idea of evil. But the Devil exists and we must fight him.'

Fighting the Devil starts with recognising the devilish role he plays in spreading pain and suffering, in promoting inexplicable violence that devastates the weakest and most vulnerable, often through conflict and war.

Pope Francis sees what is happening right now in Ukraine as a clear example of what he calls “the diabolical folly of violence” – and he proposes an antidote…  

Jesus taught us that the diabolical folly of violence is answered with the weapons of God, with prayer and fasting.'

During a recent interview, the Pope again referred to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and warned how Lucifer often tricks us into believing something ugly is attractive, how he twists our logic into thinking that even war can be something honourable. 

Pope Francis was even more explicit in calling out the Evil One when he spoke to families and young people during a visit to Rumania in 2019…

'The Evil One divides, disperses, separates and creates discord, sowing distrust. He wants us to live separated from others and from ourselves. The Holy Spirit, on the contrary, reminds us that we are not anonymous beings, not abstract, faceless beings, without history or identity.'

There will always be those who scoff at the idea of there being a diabolic dimension to the war in Ukraine, or in the wars being fought elsewhere in the world. But when horror and cruelty become so unspeakable, it’s hard not to acknowledge there are more sinister powers at work. 

So when Pope Francis does denounce the Great Deceiver, he’s really just giving the Devil his due. 

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