Vatican vows to fight Devil
The Catholic Church has vowed to "fight the Devil head-on" by training hundreds of priests as exorcists.
Father Gabriele Amorth (82), the Vatican's Exorcist-in-Chief, announced the initiative amid the Church's concerns about growing worldwide interest in Satanism and the occult.
According to plans being considered, each bishop would have a group of priests in his diocese who were specially trained in exorcism and on hand to take action against "extreme Godlessness".
Fr Amorth said: "Thanks be to God that we have a Pope who has decided to fight the Devil head-on.
"Now bishops are to be obliged to have a number of established exorcists for their diocese. Too many bishops are not taking this seriously and are not delegating their priests in the fight against the Devil. You have to hunt high and low for a proper, trained exorcist.
"Thankfully, Pope Benedict XVI believes in the existence and danger of evil."
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the oldest Vatican department, deals with promoting and safeguarding Roman Catholic beliefs. It was headed by the Pope when he was Cardinal Ratzinger, from 1982 until his election as Pope in 2005.
Fr Amorth said that during his time at the department the Pope warned humanity of the risks it faced from the Devil.
He added: "I remember a meeting we exorcists had with the Holy Father last year in which he implored us to follow our mission as exorcists."
Fr Paolo Scarafoni, another exorcism expert who lectures at the Vatican, said interest in Satanism and the occult had grown as people lost their faith in the Church.
He added: "People suffer and think that the Devil can help solve their problems."
The Vatican is concerned that young people are being exposed to Satanism through the media, rock music and the Internet.
Under Canon Law 1172 all priests can perform exorcisms. But in reality only a select few are ever called on to do so.
Exorcism involves a series of gestures and prayers to invoke the power of God and stop the "demon" influencing its victim.
Fr Amorth added that Pope Benedict XVI wanted to reinstate use of the prayer to St Michael the Archangel, believed to be the prime protector against evil.
He said: "The prayer is useful not only for priests but for lay people. For example if a lay person knows someone who is possessed and there is no exorcist available they can intervene by saying this prayer, commanding the demon to leave that person."
The prayer to St Michael the Archangel was sidelined in the 1960s by Pope John XXIII during the Second Vatican Council.
Meanwhile, a Catholic bishop has caused fury in Spain by claiming some children "want to be abused".
Bishop Bernardo Alvarez of Tenerife told a newspaper: "There are 13-year-olds who are are in agreement and even want it; even, if you don't watch out, provoking you." (© Daily Telegraph, London)