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ROME, September 29, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — Pope Francis today invited Catholics worldwide to pray the Rosary every day during the month of October, “asking the Holy Mother of God and St. Michael the Archangel” to protect the Church from attacks of the devil — the “Great Accuser” — and to make her members more aware “of the sins, errors, and abuses committed in the present and in the past.”

A Vatican statement issued today — on the liturgical feast of St. Michael the Archangel — seemed to be an indirect response to accusations by former U.S. Nuncio, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, that Pope Francis and several high-ranking prelates were complicit in covering up homosexual abuse by ex-U.S. Cardinal, Theodore McCarrick.

The Vatican in fact would not say if Pope Francis was referring to its former U.S. Nuncio, Archbishop Viganò, the AP reported today.

The Pope’s invitation has therefore left many “conservative” Catholics torn: while welcoming an invitation to pray, and believing in its power, many do not want to participate in what looks like a prayer offensive being mounted against Archbishop Viganò, whose allegations many cardinals, bishops, priests and laity believe should thoroughly be investigated in order to get to the truth.

In today’s statement, the Vatican announced:

The Holy Father has decided to invite all the faithful, from all over the world, to pray the Holy Rosary every day, during the entire Marian month of October; and thus to unite in communion and penance, as God’s people, in asking the Holy Mother of God and Saint Michael the Archangel to protect the Church from the devil, who always seeks to divide us from God and one another.

In recent days, before his departure for the Baltic States [Sept. 22-25], the Holy Father met Father Fréderic Fornos S.J., international director of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, and asked him to spread this call to all the faithful throughout the world, inviting them to conclude the recitation of the Rosary with the ancient invocation ‘Sub Tuum Praesidium,’ and with the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel who protects and helps us in the fight against evil (cf. Rev. 12, 7-12).

Prayer — the Pope said a few days ago, on September 11, in a homily at Santa Marta, quoting the first chapter of the Book of Job —is the weapon against the great accuser who “roams the earth looking for ways to accuse.” Only prayer can defeat him.

Today’s announcement coincides with the date Archbishop Viganò gave to his second testimony. Published in advance two days ago, in the statement Viganò restates his central charge about the Pope’s elevation of McCarrick, notes the contradiction between the Pope’s vow of silence and his “Great Accuser” homilies, and calls on Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, to use the documents in his possession to “bear witness to the truth.”

Pope Francis has told the media that he “will not say a word” in response to Vigano’s allegations, but ever since the 11-page bombshell was published on August 25, he has referred repeatedly in his daily homilies to the ‘Great Accuser,’ who attacks the Church and sows division within it.

His September 11 homily, delivered to bishops visiting Rome, was the first in his “Great Accuser” series. In it, he said:

In these times, it seems like the ‘Great Accuser’ has been unchained and is attacking bishops. True, we are all sinners, we bishops. He tries to uncover the sins, so they are visible in order to scandalize the people. […] A bishop’s strength against the ‘Great Accuser’ is prayer.

Today’s statement from the Vatican continued:

The Russian mystics and the great saints of all traditions have advised, in moments of spiritual turmoil, that one protect oneself under the mantle of the Holy Mother of God by pronouncing the invocation, “Sub Tuum Praesidium.”

The invocation “Sub Tuum Praesidium” reads as follows:

“Sub tuum praesidium confugimus Sancta Dei Genitrix. Nostras deprecationes ne despicias in necessitatibus, sed a periculis cunctis libera nos semper, Virgo Gloriosa et Benedicta”.

[We fly to thy patronage, O holy Mother of God; despise not our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always from all dangers, O glorious and blessed Virgin. Amen.]

With this request for intercession, the Holy Father asks the faithful throughout the world to pray that the Holy Mother of God will place the Church under her protective mantle: to protect her from the attacks of the evil one, the great accuser, and at the same time make her ever more aware of the sins, errors, and abuses committed in the present and in the past, and committed to fighting without hesitation so that evil does not prevail.

Concluding by recalling the famous St. Michael prayer of Pope Leo XIII, whose 25-year pontificate lasted from 1878 until his death in 1903, at the age of 93, and whose 11 encyclicals on the Rosary earned him the title, the “Rosary Pope,” the statement said:

The Holy Father has also asked that the recitation of the Holy Rosary during the month of October be concluded with the prayer written by Leo XIII:

“Sancte Michael Archangele, defende nos in proelio; contra nequitiam et insidias diaboli esto praesidium. Imperet illi Deus, supplices deprecamur: tuque, Princeps militiae caelestis, Satanam aliosque spiritus malignos, qui ad perditionem animarum pervagantur in mundo, divina virtute, in infernum detrude. Amen.”

[Saint Michael Archangel, defend us in battle, be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil; may God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl through the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.]

Today’s statement left some Catholics dumbfounded, still others bewildered, some speechless, and some not.

Deacon Nick Donnelly began the day tweeting:

And he ended the day, pinning to his Twitter page:

One source close to the Vatican said: “It’s fantastic to pray the Rosary every day, and to pray the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, but I am confused as to what exactly Pope Francis is asking us to pray for. Is he actually asking us to pray that the accusations are not clarified?”

Another layman commented, “He has invoked the intercession of Our Lady, the Mother of Truth, in the service — if not of untruth — then at least the obfuscation of truth and perpetuation of scandal. It’s all very ‘Alice in Wonderland.’”

And when the news dawned in North America, John-Henry Westen, co-founder of LifeSiteNews, weighed in saying: “This may just be the greatest PR disaster in the history of popes. In a time where many are ‘accusing’ priests and bishops for sexual abuse and cover up, for the Pope to enlist the whole Church in praying against the ‘Great Accuser’ is unwise to say the least. The prayers themselves are great, and in fact the very solution to the crisis we’re in,” he said, “but by going after Archbishop Viganò in this way he has missed the larger disastrous implications of his ‘great accuser’ argument.”

Finally, a source in Rome confessed: “I’m shocked. This is the most Catholic statement that’s comes out of the Vatican during this pontificate. Pope Francis is calling us to look to Leo XIII. This is likely the first time in his pontificate that he’s mentioned a pre-Vatican II pope.”

A lesser known fact about Leo XIII is that, in addition to composing the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, he also wrote an exorcism prayer against Satan’s attacks on the Chair of Peter.

Bishop Athanasius Schneider told the story of Leo XIII’s lesser known exorcism prayer earlier this year in a talk on the importance of the Petrine office as the “cathedra of truth.”  Speaking in Rome last April, he said:

Throughout the course of history Satan, the father of lies, continually attacks the Church, and especially the cathedra of truth, which is the Chair of Peter. Through the inscrutable permission of Divine Providence the attacks of Satan against the Roman cathedra have in rare cases had the effect of a temporary and limited eclipse of the Papal Magisterium, when some Roman Pontiffs have made ambiguous doctrinal statements, thereby causing a temporary situation of doctrinal confusion in the life of the Church.

One can see this possibility expressed in the following words taken from the Exorcism against Satan and the rebel angels, written by Pope Leo XIII in 1884. The original text says: “Behold, the ancient enemy and murderer strongly raises his head! Transformed into an angel of light, with the entire horde of wicked spirits he goes about everywhere and takes possession of the earth, so that therein he may blot out the Name of God and of His Christ and steal away, afflict and ruin into everlasting destruction the souls destined for a Crown of Eternal Glory. On men depraved in mind and corrupt in heart the wicked dragon pours out like a most foul river, the poison of his villainy, a spirit of lying, impiety and blasphemy; and the deadly breath of lust and of all iniquities and vices. Her most crafty enemies have engulfed the Church, the Spouse of the Immaculate Lamb, with sorrows, they have drenched her with wormwood; on all her desirable things they have laid their wicked hands. Where the See of the Blessed Peter and the Chair of Truth have been set up for the light of the gentiles, there they have placed the throne of the abomination of their wickedness, so that, the Pastor having been struck, they may also be able to scatter the flock.”

On the morning of October 13, 1884 — exactly thirty-three years before the final Marian apparition at Fatima and the extraordinary miracle of the sun — Pope Leo XIII, while he was assisting at Holy Mass in thanksgiving for the one he had just celebrated, had a vision that is now famous. Satan appeared before God asking him for permission to act undisturbed for a hundred years in order to destroy the Church, which permission was granted to him. The Pontiff then saw swarms of demons fall on the basilica of St. Peter, to invade the Petrine See. Immediately after the vision the Pope composed the prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel, which he ordered to be recited at the end of each low Mass, and the famous exorcism, from which the quotation just cited is taken. The dramatic phrase ‘on the See of most blessed Peter’ would later be removed by Pius XI in order to avoid scandal for the faith, but today at the very least it is prophetic.

In the Gospel for the feast of St. Michael the Archangel — in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite — Christ warns his disciples: “He that shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in Me, it were better for him that a millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Mt 18:5). 

In the Ordinary Form, the Gospel for today’s feast speaks of an apocalyptic battle in heaven, and the casting out of Satan and his rebel angels’ to the earth (Rev. 12:7).

Regardless of what Pope Francis’ motives might be, the suggestion to pray the Rosary every day of the Marian month of October, concluding with the “Sub Tuum Praesidium” and the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, can and should be taken up by the faithful with vigor. The Immaculate Virgin — who at Fatima said that “the Rosary can stop wars” — will surely accept the sincere prayers of her children, and use them to crush the head of the serpent and accomplish God’s holy will.  

As Cardinal Robert Sarah tweeted out today: