The Church celebrates the liturgical memorial of John Paul II on the 38th anniversary of the beginning of his pontificate, which began on October 22, 1978. On that day, Pope Wojtyła left his mark on history and humanity with his famous phrase, “Do not be afraid! Open, indeed, open wide the doors to Christ!”
John Paul II was also an exorcist, hated and feared by the devil, according to the famous exorcist Father Gabriel Amorth. Until the beginning of his pontificate, exorcisms were considered a “medieval” practice that was disappearing in the face of scientific advances in psychiatry, medicine and technology.
The pope who “came from a faraway country” approved an updated form of the Rite of Exorcism in 1998, nearly 400 years after the previous version was released. He himself had already performed the rite of exorcism inside the walls of the Vatican, as documented by the journalist David Murgia in a television program on TV2000, the radio and television network of the Italian Episcopal Conference.
When he was a still young priest—according to TV2000’s sources—the future Polish pope had performed exorcisms on various people with inexplicable maladies who were thought to be possessed.
Cardinal Jacques-Paul Martin, Prefect of the Papal Household during the pontificate of John Paul II, confirmed in his posthumous memoirs that the Polish pope had confronted the devil in the Vatican in 1982, freeing a young woman who had been the victim of diabolical possession.
The prelate recounts how the bishop of Spoleto, a region of Perugia in Umbria, requested an audience with the pope to present to him the case of Francesca.
It was March 27, 1982, when Francesca and her family crossed St. Peter’s Square. Doctors had been unable to solve the enigma and the woman was under the care of a priest who was an exorcist, and of her parish priest. Because her case was so inexplicable, Bishop Alberti of Spoleto brought the young woman before the Pope.
The pastor of Santa Assunta (Cesi-Terni), Father Baldini Ferroni, accompanied Francesca and her family to the Vatican and shares details of what happened. “They took us to a room where Pope Wojtyła was vesting for Mass.”
“She was emotionless. The pope took in hand the book of the rite of exorcism and began to read in Latin. The young girl trembled, although she had an absent expression on her face,” Father Ferroni recounts.
She began to roll around on the floor, shouting. “We could hear her shrieking. John Paul II had begun to pray, using various prayers,” the cardinal remembered.
After the rite of exorcism, Pope John Paul II asked those present not to worry and to keep praying for her. Francesca is fine now; she is married, has four children, and leads a normal life. Her possession has had no lasting effects, as her pastor confirmed when speaking to David Murgia, the journalist from TV2000.
Regarding the power of the exorcism performed by John Paul II, Amorth commented, “I have carried out the rite of exorcism on several people who, even after twenty years, have not been completely freed. There are always improvements, but freeing them is another question.”