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Fr. Arturo Sosa Abascal, SJ, is the General Superior of the Jesuit order.

June 2, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — It’s been said that the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist. And the new head of the Jesuit order seems to have fallen for it. 

Fr. Arturo Sosa Abascal, the Jesuit’s Superior General, said in a May 31 interview with the Spanish paper El Mundo that Satan is a “symbolic figure” who doesn’t really exist. 

“We have created symbolic figures, such as the devil, in order to express [the reality of] evil,” said Abascal when asked if he believes evil is a process of human psychology or comes from a higher being. 

“Social conditioning also represents that figure,” he added.

The Catholic Church teaches, however, that Satan is a real being, a fallen angel who was cast from Heaven into Hell after rebelling against God. 

“The Church teaches that Satan was at first a good angel, made by God: ‘The devil and the other demons were indeed created naturally good by God, but they became evil by their own doing.’” states the Catechism of the Catholic Church. 

“Scripture speaks of a sin of these angels. This ‘fall’ consists in the free choice of these created spirits, who radically and irrevocably rejected God and his reign,” it adds.

Historically, the Superior General of the Jesuits has been dubbed the “Black Pope” because of his influence in the Church.

Abascal referring to the devil as a symbol follows a trend within current Catholic leadership of downplaying and even denying the existence of hell altogether. 

Pope Francis has made comments on various occasions seeming to indicate he thinks hell is not eternal and, if it does exist, it is likely empty. Francis suggested in a controversial March 2015 interview with Repubblica that no person goes to hell forever, but souls who fully reject God are simply “annihilated.” Then in his 2015 Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia he stated that “No one can be condemned for ever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel!” While in Fatima last month, however, the Pope said that a life devoid of God leads to hell. 

Cardinal Francis Arinze told LifeSiteNews in an interview last month that those who disregard hell as a place “invented” to scare people into acting a certain way need to listen to the message from Our Lady of Fatima. Sr. Lucia recounts that in one of the visions Our Lady showed the three children hell. They saw a “great sea of fire” into which were plunged demons.

“The demons could be distinguished by their terrifying and repulsive likeness to frightful and unknown animals, all black and transparent,” she recounted.

“There are people who don't want us to talk of hell. But hell is not something that was invented in the Vatican,” Arinze said.

Arinze said that Jesus himself confirms in the Gospels the reality of hell as a place “where are there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

“Christ himself said that. He spoke of those who would be thrown out into the exterior darkness. He spoke of those who would be punished for always. And Christ is the son of God. If anybody is merciful, it is he. So, if he said that to us, it is in our own interest to take it seriously,” he said. 

Jesus is clear in the Gospels that Satan exists. He cast out numerous demons (Mk. 5:9. Matt. 8:28-34). Referring to the fall of the angels, Jesus told his disciples that he saw “Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Lk. 10:18). 

And Jesus constantly warned his listeners about the reality of hell in his preaching and parables. Those who in unrighteous anger call their brother “fool” are “liable to the hell of fire” (Matt 5:22). Speaking about the seriousness of sin he said it is better to lose part of your body than for your whole body to be “thrown into hell” (Matt. 5:29). Calling his followers to holy fear, he urged them to be afraid of being destroyed “both body and soul in hell” (Matt. 10:28). He spoke of a day of judgment in one parable where the weeds are separated from the wheat, tied into bundles, and “burned” (Matt. 13: 24-30). 

On many occasions Jesus spoke of a place where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 22:1-14, 24: 36-51, 25: 26-30, and Lk. 13:22-30). In the parable of the sheep and goats he spoke of a place of “eternal fire” and “eternal punishment” for those who failed to love God in their neighbor. He warned that giving scandal could lead sinners to a place where “the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:42-48). In the story of Lazarus and Dives, the rich man is on one side of a “great chasm” and in “agony in this fire” for his selfishness (Luke 16:19-31).

Venerable Servant of God Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen warned in a 1947 radio show about the great lengths to which Satan will go to convince the world of his non-existence so he can work as he pleases.

“Nowhere in Sacred Scripture do we find warrant for the popular myth of the devil as a buffoon who is dressed like the first ‘red.’ Rather is he described as a fallen angel, and as ‘the Prince of this world’ whose business it is to tell us that there is no other world,” he said. 

“His logic is simple: if there is no heaven there is no hell; if there is no hell, there is no sin; if there is no sin, there is no judge, and if there is no judgment then evil is good and good is evil,” he added.

Earlier this year Abascal said that Christians don’t know what Jesus actually said about divorce because it wasn’t tape-recorded. 

He called Jesus’ words “relative,” adding that they must be “discerned” according to the “conscience” of each individual.

But Cardinal Raymond Burke in April called Abascal’s view “completely wrong,” stating that the Jesuit General needed to be “corrected.”

RELATED: New Jesuit chief claims Jesus’ own words against divorce are ‘relative,’ subject to ‘interpretation’