VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The devil’s favorite weapon for destroying the church is creating division, Pope Francis told new bishops.

Be very careful to make sure that everything meant for promoting pastoral activities and evangelization “does not get damaged or undermined by divisions that are already present or may be created,” he said Sept. 9.

The pope spoke during a meeting with 96 bishops ordained in the past two years and named to dioceses in the church’s mission territories. The new bishops were participating in a seminar, often referred to as “new bishops’ school,” sponsored by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.


Introducing the 96 missionary bishops to the pope, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, prefect of the congregation, said 43 of the bishops were from Africa, 36 from Asia, 13 from the Americas and four from Oceania.

Speaking off-the-cuff to the new bishops, the pope said, “The weapon the devil has most at the ready for destroying the church from within is division.”

His other weapon, the pope said, is money. “The devil comes in through the wallet and he destroys with the tongue, with gossip that divides” and hurts the local and universal church, he said.

“Please, fight against divisions,” the pope said, emphasizing the need to not let ethnic, cultural or tribal differences be a source of harm for the Christian community. The bishop, as a visible figure of unity, “has the task of ceaselessly building” communion among all members of the particular church.

The pope also urged the bishops to be close to their priests and guide their constant formation.

“When a bishop gets a telephone call from a priest or he receives a letter, answer right away, the same day if possible,” he said.

The bishop must also be a good example, giving concrete witness of his own “human, spiritual and intellectual maturity,” of Christ’s love and of the church’s concern.

“There are difficult challenges to resolve,” he said, “but with God’s grace, prayer and penance, it can be done.”