Vatican's chief exorcist thanks Pope Benedict XVI

The Vatican's chief exorcist has thanked Pope Benedict XVI for opening the way to exorcisms, not only for those possessed by the devil but also those tormented by him.

"Benedict held an audience with exorcists from all over the world and welcomed us with words of great, great encouragement," Gabriel Amorth, devil fighter for the diocese of Rome for 27 years, said late Friday in an interview with Italian religious channel TV2000.

"He has continued to encourage us. The pope has done a lot to revise procedures... and given us powerful prayers that serve to exorcise," said Amorth.

The praise came after the 85-year-old pontiff said he was resigning on February 28 due to old age. Benedict's papacy has been hit hard by sex abuse scandals and divisions within the Church -- both of which Amorth has previously blamed as the work of the devil.

As cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he helped reform the catechism of the Catholic Church to "widen the front in the fight against Satan... not just in cases of the diabolic possession of people but in all cases of disturbances caused by the devil and that's 90 percent of the cases," Amorth said.

He said that cases of full possession by the devil are very rare, but that he has seen victims "walk on walls, slither across the floor like a snake."

Disturbances caused by the devil, however, "have become extremely common."

"People go to wizards, to fortune-tellers, to those who call themselves exorcists... it's become a problem, because when someone wants an exorcist, there aren't very many and they are ill prepared," he said.

The Association of Exorcists also has its work cut out because "the act of exorcism had been suspended for centuries, and while there is a huge request for exorcists, there are priests and bishops who do not believe in it."

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