VATICAN CITY — The superior general of the Jesuit order told reporters Dec. 2 that the devil is real, after making headlines in August by stating that Satan is a symbol, not a person.

Satan “is the one who stands between God's plan and his work of salvation accomplished in Christ, because he has made this irreversible and free decision, and he wants to drag others to reject the merciful God, who prefers to give his life to save instead of to condemn,” Jesuit Father Arturo Sosa said in a meeting with journalists, according to a report from Vida Nueva.

Sosa added that “the power of the devil...obviously still exists as a force that tries to ruin our efforts.”

Sosa’s comments came amid remarks he offered on the six Jesuits and two employees killed in November 1989 by Salvadoran soldiers at the University of Central America in San Salvador.

On Aug 21, Sosa told an Italian magazine that the devil “exists as the personification of evil in different structures, but not in persons, because is not a person, is a way of acting evil. He is not a person like a human person. It is a way of evil to be present in human life.”

“Good and evil are in a permanent war in the human conscience and we have ways to point them out. We recognize God as good, fully good. Symbols are part of reality, and the devil exists as a symbolic reality, not as a personal reality,” he added in August.

The Catechism of the Catholic 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.’”

Angels, the Catechism says, are “spiritual, non-corporeal beings.”

Sosa, 71, was elected the Jesuits’ superior general in 2016. A Venezuelan, he has a pontifical licentiate in philosophy and a doctorate in political science. He served as a Jesuit provincial superior in Venezuela from 1996 to 2004, and in 2014 began an administrative role at the general curia of the Jesuits in Rome.

Sosa has offered controversial comments about Satan in the past. In 2017, he told El Mundo that “we have formed symbolic figures such as the Devil to express evil.”

After his 2017 remark generated controversy, a spokesman for Sosa told the Catholic Herald that “like all Catholics, Father Sosa professes and teaches what the Church professes and teaches. He does not hold a set of beliefs separate from what is contained in the doctrine of the Catholic Church.”