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Pope Benedict Praised By Vatican Exorcist
Outgoing Pope Benedict XVI has won praise from an unusual quarter - the Catholic church's leading exorcist priest.
Father Gabriel Amorth, 86, who has carried out more than 70,000 exorcisms in a career spanning 25 years after being appointed by the late Pope John Paul II, said: "Pope Benedict has done many things for exorcists.
"He has allowed them within the catechism of the Catholic Church, consenting them to administer the sacrament of exorcism to people suffering from demonic possession.
"But not only to them, also those who suffer other evil disorders such as being plagued by devils and diabolic infestation."
Father Amorth, an outspoken and controversial figure, was speaking in a recording of a show on Pope Benedict's eight-year term of office, which will be screened on Italian TV, called: Joseph Ratzinger And The Devil. The History Of A Pontificate And The Battle Against Evil.
The priest is president of the International Association of Exorcists and it is not the first time that he has linked Pope Benedict to exorcism.
Last year in his book The Last Exorcist - My Fight Against Satan, Father Amorth described how the presence of the Pope helped cure two "possessed" men who were in St Peter's Square in May 2009 as the Popemobile drove past them.
Father Amorth said his two assistants escorted the pair into the square and managed to get them seats in an area reserved for the disabled.
As the Pope approached them, the men, named only as Marco and Giovanni, began to act in a strange fashion, Father Amorth wrote.
He described how they shook and how their teeth began to chatter. One of the assistants asked Giovanni to control himself, but he replied: "I am not Giovanni" in a different voice to his own, Father Amorth claims.
As soon as the Pope stepped down from his vehicle the two men threw themselves to the floor.
''They banged their heads on the ground. They were trembling, slobbering, working themselves into a frenzy.
''The Pope watched from a distance. He raised an arm and blessed the four of them. For the possessed it was like a furious jolt - a blow to their whole bodies - to the extent that they were thrown three metres backwards.
"They stopped howling but they cried uncontrollably."
Father Amorth insisted in the book that it was the presence of the Pope that helped cure the men. Although the Vatican confirmed the incident, it later stressed the Pontiff had not actually carried out an exorcism.
Father Amorth, whose favourite film is said to be The Exorcist, has previously spoken out against Harry Potter and yoga - claiming they both "lead to evil" because of their links with magic and spiritualism.
In 2011 he said the then child sex scandals rocking the Catholic Church were evidence that ''the Devil was at work in the Vatican".
In 2006 he gave an interview to Vatican Radio in which he said that Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and Russian dictator Josef Stalin were both possessed by the Devil.
According to secret Vatican documents, the then war-time Pope Pius XII attempted a ''long distance exorcism'' of Hitler but it failed to have any effect.