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The devil “has no chance if there is prayer,” says Pope Francis in a brief interview published in the book “Esorcisti contro Satana” (“Exorcists against Satan”) by Italian journalist Fabio Marchese Ragona, released on April 11, 2023. In the chapter, the Pontiff talks about how the devil attacks the Church and the faithful and how he has dealt with these cases as Pope and archbishop.
“What is certain is that the Devil tries to attack everyone without distinction, and tries above all to strike those who have more responsibilities in the Church or in society,” he explained. “Even Jesus suffered temptations from the Devil, we can also think of those by Simon Peter to whom He said: ‘Get away from me, Satan.’ Even the Pope is, therefore, attacked by the evil one.”
The Pontiff, in fact, considered that he may “get on the Devil’s nerves, because [he] tr[ies] to follow the Lord and do what the Gospel says.”
“That annoys him,” he added, explaining that nonetheless he is sure the devil is “certainly happy” when he sins.
“He seeks man’s failure, but he has no chance if there is prayer,” the Pope emphasized. Indeed, since he was elected, Francis has always asked the faithful and all his interlocutors to pray for him.
The book, available only in Italian for now, talks about exorcisms generally while also citing the testimonies of exorcist priests and of victims who were possessed. A short chapter is dedicated to the interview with Pope Francis.
Following Christ to avoid attacks on the Church and on one’s soul
Responding to a question by the journalist who cited Saint Paul VI as saying that Satan can also enter the Temple of God, the Pope agreed and said the devil tries “to sow discord and turn one against the other” and that “divisions and attacks are always” his work.
“The only salvation is to follow the path indicated by Christ,” the Pontiff explained.
He also warned against those “polite demons” who take possession of souls.
“The soul, not taking care to examine the conscience, doesn’t take any notice, or out of spiritual lukewarmness lets them in. These demons are terrible. Because they kill you. It is the worst possession,” Francis emphasized. “Spiritual worldliness covers all these things. There is no escape: the Devil either destroys directly with wars and injustices, or he does it politely, in a very diplomatic way, as Jesus recounts.”
How has Pope Francis dealt with exorcisms?
Francis assured that he has never practiced an exorcism, whether as pope or before as archbishop and priest. However, he said that on several occasions he sent people who said they were possessed to two “specialist priests,” who were “not healers” but in fact “exorcists,” he specified.
One was the exorcist of the Diocese of La Plata, Father Carlos Alberto Mancuso, and the other was Jesuit priest Nicolas Mihaljevic.
“Both of them later told me that only two or three of those people were really victims of diabolical possession,” Pope Francis explained. He also emphasized the importance of distinguishing these cases of possession, in which the devil is “in the body,” from the more frequent cases of “diabolical obsession.”
He said that if an exorcism was ever needed, now that he is Pope, he would repeat this practice of asking “for the support of a good exorcist.”
Exorcisms in the Vatican?
In the chapter dedicated to Francis’ interview, he declined to comment on a case presented to him by the journalist concerning a possessed nun in 2018 who said the devil apparently expressed his hatred for the Pope. In 2014, the Holy See denied a rumor that Pope Francis had performed an exorcism on a Mexican man who had convulsions in St. Peter’s Square, saying the Pontiff had simply prayed for him by laying his hands on him.
The Vatican does not have exorcists, unlike the Diocese of Rome. The Italian journalist’s book cites Father Vincenzo Taraborelli, who works in the parish of Santa Maria in Traspontina, just down the road from St. Peter’s Basilica.
The book also mentions an anonymous cardinal, who has been performing exorcisms within the Vatican walls for the last 40 years.
The Albanian Cardinal Ernest Simoni and the Indian Cardinal Ivan Dias – who died in 2017 – have also practiced exorcisms, according to the author of the book.
Pope Francis speaks quite frequently about the devil, his tactics, and how to avoid him. See just a handful of examples below: