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.”
Wojtyła’s spiritual battle against the devil
Karol Józef Wojtyłla considered spiritual battle against the prince of “impure spirits,” the great tempter, as the equivalent of spreading God’s word. He spoke and wrote of the lies and seduction of sin on many occasions.
On March 9, 2003, during the Angelus in St. Peter’s Square, the elderly and ill pope warned the world about the international situation of war and the need to convert our hearts to true peace.
“In this regard, how much more eloquent is the image of Christ who exposes and overcomes the lies of Satan with the force of truth contained in the Word of God,” he said.
The future saint, renowned for his spirituality and powerful prayer among those who worked with him, affirmed, “In the inner heart of every person the voice of God and the insidious voice of the Evil One can be heard. The latter seeks to deceive the human person, seducing him with the prospect of false goods, to lead him away from the real good that consists precisely in fulfilling the divine will.”
In February of 2004, in Paul VI Hall, he reminded his listeners how Christ fought against Satan. “We too, like Christ, are called to fight against the devil with all our might and determination. Only in this way, with renewed adherence to God’s will, can we be faithful to our Christian vocation: to be heralds and witnesses of the Gospel.”
On various occasions, Pope Wojtyła made it clear that the work of the devil manifests itself through the evils of drugs, war, moral decadence, the persecution of Christians, and ideologies in every age.
“John Paul II has given so many discourses about Satan on a doctrinal level, but the most publicized has been his discourse in front of the Cave of Saint Michael the Archangel, near San Giovanni Rotondo, near Padre Pio,” Father Amorth told TV2000 in one of the last interviews he granted to the media. Amorth died in September of 2016 at the advanced age of 91.
On May 24, 1987, during his visit to the shrine in Foggia (in the Italian region of Apulia), John Paul II asked Saint Michael the Archangel for help to fight against the devil, “because the devil is still alive and at work in the world. In fact, the evil that is in it, the disorder we see in society […] are not merely the consequences of original sin, but also the effect of the dark and infesting activity of Satan.”
“It is true that ‘the powers of death shall not prevail,’ as the Lord assured (Mt 16:18), but this does not mean that we are exempt from trials and battles against the snares of the evil one,” John Paul II affirmed. At the end of the Mass, the Pope repeated in Latin, “Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.”
Amorth pointed out that “this cave of the shrine of the Archangel Michael, where he is represented with a sword and the devil under his feet, has given rise to all the representations of Saint Michael, and on that occasion, [the pope] warned us that the devil is fully active in our days.”
“To those who do not believe it, I say that the devil is leading them all because without knowing it they are not with Christ; they are with Satan.”
The devil confesses why he is afraid of John Paul II
Father Amorth, the official exorcist of the diocese of Rome, told TV2000 that he has discovered why Saint John Paul II is a powerful intercessor to fight against the devil and free the possessed. He also treated this topic in the book he co-authored with the Italian journalist Pablo Rodari, saying, “I’ve asked the devil more than once, ‘Why are you so afraid of John Paul II?’”
First of all, Father Amorth explains, the devil answered that the saintly pope had “disrupted his plans” on Earth. Amorth interpreted the devil’s answer as referring to the fall of Communism and Marxism in the ex-Soviet Union.
Secondly, the Italian exorcist said that the devil was furious with John Paul II because he “pulled so many young people out of [his] hands.”
Amorth explained that it was precisely because “there are so many young people who, thanks to John Paul II, were converted. Perhaps some were already Christian but not practicing, but then with John Paul II they came back to the practice.”
Father Amorth also highlighted the fact that, while John Paul II and Padre Pio are our allies against the devil, there is no doubt that their influence cannot be compared to the power of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus.
“Once I also asked Satan, ‘but why are you more scared when I invoke Our Lady than when I invoke Jesus Christ?’ He answered me, ‘Because I am more humiliated to be defeated by a human creature than being defeated by Him.”
It is also worth noting that during the pontificate of John Paul II, the Holy Father decided that it would be a priority in the diocese of Rome to dust off the ancient rite of exorcism and train priests in this spiritual mission of healing and liberation.
In July of 2014, the Congregation for Clergy, with the blessing of Pope Francis, granted juridical recognition to the International Association of Exorcists (IAE). In this way, the Vatican formally recognized the existence of a group of 250 priests in 30 countries who fight against demonic possession.
Translated from the Spanish.