Pope Francis has praised a convention of exorcists, according to the group who has warned that the “battle against evil and the devil” is becoming an “emergency”.
Some 250 members of the International Association of Exorcists came from over 30 countries to meet in Rome last week, to discuss what its members consider to be pressing issues including the occult and Satanism.
Dr Valter Cascioli, a psychiatrist and spokesman for the group, told Vatican Radio that the Pope praised exorcists for proving that the Catholic Church “welcomes those suffering from the Devil’s work” by helping those who are apparently possessed.
But Dr Cascioli also suggested that the organisation's fight is far from over, by warning listeners of Vatican Radio against a supposed "extraordinary increase in demonic activity", the Mail Online reported.
He added that he believes there is a growing number of people turning to the occult and Satanism, which are “psychologically, spiritually and morally” damaging and are “constantly growing” as movements.
The temptation to take part in “ordinary demonic activity” poses a further threat, he added, which leaves people vulnerable to greater attacks by Satan.
In pictures: 'The many popes of Pope Francis'
In pictures: 'The many popes of Pope Francis'
1/12 The Pro-Gay Pope
In just a year, Pope Francis has managed to change the public perception of the Catholic Church, and the stance it takes on civil issues, like gay rights. Despite originally protesting the legalisation of gay marriage in his native Argentina some years ago, he told reporters this year: “If someone is gay and seeks the Lord with good will, who am I to judge?”
2/12 The Rebel Pope
No other Pope has urged a shake-up of the Catholic Church quite like Pope Francis, a true rebel of the dioceses. Who, incidentally, used to be a night club bouncer.
3/12 The Graffiti Pope
Pope Francis become... SUPER POPE in this Vatican-approved street art. But was he happy with the reference to the fictional DC comic character?"To depict the pope as a sort of superman, a sort of star, seems offensive to me. The pope is a man who laughs, cries, sleeps tranquilly and has friends like everyone else, a normal person," he said. So, that's a no, then.
4/12 The Biker Pope
Yes, the Pope used to own a Harley Davidson. And yes, he auctioned it off this year and donated the proceeds to a charity that feeds the hungry in Rome. Very Papal.
5/12 The ‘Blue’ Pope
Dropping the 'F' bomb during Sunday service? Classic Pope Francis. Sadly, down to a Spanish-speaking slip of the Italian language rather than pure bad-assery.
6/12 The ‘Because I’m Worth It’ Pope
That awkward moment when your Papal hat blows off, forcing your barnet into Sesame Street-like spikes. Pope Francis has been there.
7/12 The Chocolate Pope
Imagine the Pope's delight (horror?) when he was presented with a giant chocolate replica of himself outside the Vatican by by students on a chocolatier course at the Accademia of Maestri Cioccolatieri, near Venice.
8/12 The Rock Star pope
The one and only religious leader ever to grace the cover of Rolling Stone magazine? Introducing... Pope Francis.
9/12 The People’s Pope
His U-turn attitude towards sexuality won him Time magazine's coveted Person of the Year accolade, and the cover of gay rights magazine The Advocate.
10/12 The Merchandise Pope
Thongs, mugs, onesies, earrings and even a baby mobile adorned with decapitated Pope heads, the 'Francis Effect' has seen sales of Papal merchandise soar by 200% over the last year.
11/12 The Fashion Pope
The only Pope, as far as we're aware, to be compared to fashion royalty (Karl Lagerfeld. Yes way.) and win Esquire's Most Stylish Man of 2013 award, too.
12/12 The Modern Pope
Let it be said, Pope Francis knows a thing or two about social media. He might be a way off 'doing a Dalai' and opting for Instagram, but he's not above posing for the odd 'Selfie' on Twitter.
And in societies where residents are guilty of “rushing, superficiality, exaggerated individualism and secularization, “the battle against evil and the devil increasingly is becoming an emergency”, he said.
Further warnings were issued at the convention itself, where members of the group founded in 1990 congregated.
At the convention, Pope Francis told the exorcists to treat people they believe to be possessed with “kindness”. His message comes after The International Association of Exorcists had its statutes officially recognised under Church law.
Father Aldo Buonaiuto, renowned for his exorcisms, told the crowd of priests and psychiatrists that Halloween was to blame for what he claimed was a spike in demonic possessions in the month of October. During this period, he said the Association receives around 40 calls a day from parents who fear their child has been initiated into the occult.
“Many say Halloween is a simple carnival, but in fact there is nothing innocent or fun about it - it is the antechamber to something much more dangerous.
“There are always more evil rituals, animal sacrifices, desecrations of cemeteries and thefts of sacred bones at the time of the 31 October,” he claimed.
In addition, Halloween is regarded by cults as the “best time of the year” to recruit their latest members, from which “the door to the devil can be opened,” he said - stressing the dangers should not be underestimated.
Instead, he urged people to take part in the Church’s new ‘Holyween’ festivities.
“While most people are steeped in zombies and horror we put on our door or windows a light or an image evocative of the saints.
“And then there will be masses, prayer vigils and worship to celebrate the saints and victory of good over evil," he said.