Days after Pope Francis laid his hands on a young man in a wheelchair in the Vatican and fueled suspicion that he performed an exorcism, the Catholic archdiocese in Madrid is reportedly considering hiring at least eight more trained clergy to help some of the faithful deal with demons.
"The devil exists. That's a fact," a spokeswoman of the Madrid archdiocese told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. She said the one exorcist the diocese has is not enough to deal with the problem.
According to a Spanish-language website, religionenlibertad.com, the number of people asking for help in driving out demons is on the rise due to the country's secularization.
The website says eight priests are being trained in exorcism, as per an 84-page document of the Catholic Church describing the rite of exorcism that was approved by Pope John Paul II in 1998.
The ritual, as laid out in the document, involves supplicatory prayers, asking for God's help, and "imperative" prayers addressed directly to the Devil, commanding him to depart, according to Catholic World News. "The prayers are to be said as the exorcist lays his hand on the individual, and are part of an overall ritual which includes specific blessings and sprinklings with holy water. The ritual also includes the litany of the saints, the reading of the Psalms and the Gospel, and a proclamation of faith which may be either the familiar Creed or a simple question-and-answer. The ritual concludes with the kissing of the Cross, and the final prayer, proclaiming the triumph of Christ and his Church."
Meanwhile, Father Gabriele Amorth, a prominent exorcist in Rome, told Catholic News Agency that Pope Francis performed an exorcism in St. Peter's Square last Sunday and that the man he laid his hands on was possessed because of Mexico's abortion law.
"The pope, in good faith, got close to him and performed an exorcism on him in the form of a liberation prayer, not like the classical exorcism that one does with a book," Amorth said. "He is really a soul of God, which the Lord is using to criticize Mexico for legalizing abortion."
The Mexican man was seen heaving deeply and shaking, but he slumped after Francis' prayer.
Fr. Amorth said he performed an exorcism for more than an hour on the same man before the pope prayed for him the same day. "I'm well informed about that young man; a good, golden, young man, he appears younger than what he is," he said. "He is 43 years old (and) married with children."
Fr. Amorth said he had also seen John Paul II doing this same prayer three times, and added, "Pope Francis laid his hands on him, prayed, and that's it. It is enough."
The Vatican said in a cautiously written statement Tuesday that Francis "didn't intend to perform any exorcism. But as he often does for the sick or suffering, he simply intended to pray for someone who was suffering who was presented to him."