A video still shows Pope Francis praying over a disabled man earlier this month alleged to have been possessed by demons
The Catholic Church's leading 'exorcist' is calling for all priests to be allowed to conduct the ritual after Pope Francis apparently performed one in St Peter's Square last week.
Father Gabriele Amorth, head of the International Association of Exorcists, wants the current rules requiring all priests to obtain permission to perform exorcisms from their bishop to be relaxed.
Father Amorth, who claims he has carried out 160,000 exorcisms, said his request has been prompted by Pope Francis performing what he insists was an exorcism on a Mexican man “possessed by four demons”.
He told the Sunday Times: 'I will ask the pope to give all priests the power to carry out exorcisms, and to ensure priests are properly trained for these starting with the seminary. There's a huge demand for them.'
His comments come after Pope Francis was captured on film performing an apparent exorcism on May 19.
The footage shows Pope Francis placing his hands on the head of a disabled man who appears to go into a frenzy of convulsions and shaking, before slumping as Francis prays over him.
Father Amorth, 88, told La Repubblica newspaper “The Pope is also the Bishop of Rome, and like any bishop he is also an exorcist.
Those who dismiss exorcism as superstition were wrong he insisted. “There was now, more than ever, a need for exorcists to combat people possessed by ‘sorcerers’ and ‘Satanists’.”
The Pontiff was introduced to two men in wheelchairs after Pentecostal mass on Sunday. When a priest leaned across to tell Francis something, the Pope's expression took on a serious tone.
Francis then took hold of the top of the man's head firmly, pushing him down into his wheelchair. As he delivered an intense prayer, the man's mouth dropped open and he heaved deeply half a dozen times, visibly shaking.
After the ritual Francis continued with his usual meetings with the sick who come to St Peter's.
The Vatican downplayed the incident with spokesman Father Federico Lombardi saying the Pope “did not intend to perform an exorcism” but a “prayer for a suffering person”.
But Father Amorth insists the “prayer” was an exorcism ritual. He told the newspaper: “The priest told Francis: ‘Look, this is a young man who is possessed by the devil’. And the pope blessed him and prayed over him; it was a real and proper exorcism”.
"The Pope's exorcism is a splendid sign because one of the main causes of today's atheism is that people don't believe in the Devil any more. Jesus said: "Who is not with me is with Satan'."
He added: "We live in an age in which God has been forgotten. And wherever God is not present, the Devil rules."
"Today, unfortunately, bishops don't appoint sufficient exorcists. We need many more. I hope that Rome will send out directives to bishops around the world calling on them to appoint more exorcists."
The former pope, Benedict XVI, never officially performed an exorcism but John Paul II is known to have carried out at least three exorcisms during his tenure.
Father Amorth claimed Pope John Paul II had been a powerful exorcist. "John Paul II fought many times against Satan."
Source: Mail Online