The Catholic Church's top exorcist has warned that Satan is alive and well and causing a whole load of problems at the Holy See.
Father Gabriele Amorth, who according to The Times is president of honour of the Association of Exorcists, said the Vatican's current problems - including recurrent child abuse allegations and a brewing gay prostitution scandal - can be largely attributed to Lucifer's visitation at the Vatican.
According to The Times, Amorth blames "cardinals who do not believe in Jesus, and bishops who are linked to the Demon".
"When one speaks of 'the smoke of Satan' [a phrase coined by Pope Paul VI in 1972] in the holy rooms, it is all true – including these latest stories of violence and paedophilia," he said.
Amorth is probably better qualified than most when it comes to dealing with Satan and the lesser demons. He has apparently dealt with 70,000 cases of demonic possession*. He was instrumental in ensuring that the traditional exorcism ritual was retained, despite the Vatican's minting of a new "improved" ritual, which Amorth condemned as a "blunt sword".
At the same time, Amorth is clearly worldly enough to use the dark arts of PR. His comments follow the launch of a book - Father Amorth. Memoirs of an Exorcist. My life fighting against Satan - based on interviews with the priest by Italian journalist Marco Tosatti.
According to the Catholic News Agency, in the book Amorth is asked if he had told the Pope about the Satanic forces at work within the Holy See.
"Of course," replied Father Amorth. "But he does what he can. It's a horrifying thing."
But there is a slight problem, in that being German, the Pope has not much of a background in demonology, with Amorth explaining "there practically aren't any exorcists [there]".
The Association of Exorcists apparently has 200 members, all priests. However, inevitably, there is an American organisation that allows anyone to become an exorcist. It says exorcists must show the qualities of "commitment, compassion, love, determination, and perseverance" and pay the annual dues of $5, or $10 if they live outside the US. ®
We previously said Fr Amorth performed 70,000 exorcisms, rather than simply dealing with that number of cases. That would of course mean an incredibly busy schedule.