The Catholic Church's top exorcist, who claims to have sent 160,000 demons back to hell, says he wants Pope Francis to allow all priests to start performing the ritual to deal with a rising demand for exorcisms from the faithful.
Father Gabriele Amorth, 88, who also heads the International Association of Exorcists, told The Sunday Times that he will ask Pope Francis to allow all priests the right to do exorcisms without the church's approval. According to the report, priests currently need special approval from their bishop to perform the rite and it is rarely granted.
"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," said Father Amorth.
He explained that he was inspired to make the request after watching Pope Francis perform what he insists was an exorcism on a man "possessed by four demons" in St. Peter's Square.
"The pope is also the Bishop of Rome, and like any bishop he is also an exorcist," Amorth reportedly told La Repubblica newspaper. "It was a real exorcism. If the Vatican has denied this, it shows that they understand nothing."
"There was now, more than ever, a need for exorcists to combat people possessed by 'sorcerers' and 'Satanists,'" he noted in that report.
An 84-page update of exorcism rites compiled in 1614 and drawn up in 1998 stipulates how Catholic priests trained as exorcists should operate. According to the guidelines established by the church, they have to follow a ritual known as "De exorcismis et supplicationibus quibusdam," or "Of exorcisms and certain supplications."
Amorth explained that Pope Francis' exorcism on May 19 helped to balance the growing atheism in the world where people don't believe in the Devil anymore.
"We live in an age in which God has been forgotten. And wherever God is not present, the Devil rules," said Amorth.
"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."
Amorth is also an outspoken critic of yoga and Harry Potter books and dismissed them as ungodly hobbies.
"Practicing yoga brings evil as does reading Harry Potter. They may both seem innocuous but they both deal with magic and that leads to evil," he said.
In addressing Harry Potter, he said: "People think it is an innocuous book for children but it's about magic and that leads to evil. In Harry Potter the Devil is at work in a cunning and crafty way, he is using his extraordinary powers of magic and evil."
"Satan is always hidden and the thing he desires more than anything is for people to believe he does not exist," he noted. "He studies each and every one of us and our tendencies towards good and evil and then he tempts us."