Pope benedict
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Pope Benedict unwittingly performed an exorcism of two men possessed by the Devil in the very heart of the Vatican, according to the Catholic Church's best-known exorcist, Father Gabriele Amorth.

In a new book, Father Amorth, the exorcist for the diocese of Rome, gives a bizarre account of how he and two assistants brought a pair of "possessed" Italian men to one of the Pope's weekly audiences in St Peter's Square in May 2009.

In his book, The Last Exorcist - My Fight Against Satan, he claimed the mere presence of the pontiff cured the men of their demonic afflictions.

Father Amorth said his two female assistants escorted the two men into St Peter's Square as the Pope was driven between crowds of faithful in the white "Popemobile" jeep.

The women managed to obtain seats for the two men in an area of seating normally reserved for the disabled.

As the Pope approached them, the men, identified only as Marco and Giovanni, began to act strangely, Father Amorth wrote.

He described how they trembled and how their teeth chattered.

When one of the assistants asked Giovanni to control himself, he said "I am not Giovanni" in a voice that was not his own, Father Amorth claimed.

As soon as the Pope stepped down from the "Popemobile' the two men flung themselves to the floor.

"They banged their heads on the ground. The Swiss Guards watched them but did nothing," the priest wrote.

"Giovanni and Marco started to wail at the same time, they were lying on the floor, howling.

"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," he continued.

"They stopped howling but they cried uncontrollably."

Father Amorth, who claims to have conducted thousands of exorcisms, wrote: "It is no mystery that the Pope's acts and words can enrage Satan...that simply the presence of the Pope can sooth and in some way help the possessed in their fight against the one who possesses them."

Federico Lombardi, the Vatican's spokesman, disputed the account, saying Benedict was not aware of the men's afflictions and had not intended to carry out an exorcism.

Father Amorth is a controversial figure whose outspoken views have embarrassed the Vatican in the past.

In November he branded yoga as "evil", claiming that it leads to a worship of Hinduism and other Eastern religions based on "a false belief in reincarnation".

He has also railed against Harry Potter, saying the children's books seem innocuous but in fact encourage children to believe in black magic and wizardry.

The Devil "studies every one of us and our tendencies towards good and evil," said Father Amorth, whose new book is sub-titled: It's not me who is frightened of the Devil, it is he who is frightened of me.