“When the Church asks publicly and authoritatively in the name of Jesus Christ that a person or object be protected against the power of the Evil One and withdrawn from his dominion, it is called exorcism” – Catechism of the Catholic Church
When you hear or read the word exorcism, what comes to mind? Most of you likely imagined Linda Blair's rotating head spewing forth a fountain of pea soup. The story of two clergy men going forth to do battle with the devil with the soul of a little girl at stake is quite "romantic". How could there ever be more at stake than when one's immortal soul is on the line?
Unfortunately for those set on thinking that when an exorcism is performed, it is done as such in The Exorcist, that isn't the case. It is not a Wild West showdown, but rather a specific, step-by-step procedure that exorcists must follow in order to expel demons from the possessed's body.
The Catholic Church has started to play down its stance on exorcism over the last several decades. With Hollywood's portrayal of demonic possession skewing people's view on what it truly is. To be exact, the church believes actual, full-fledged demonic possession to be exceedingly rare, and that it can only be proved legitimate after any number or mental or physical maladies have been ruled out.
The church does has specially trained exorcists, but what most people don't know is that two recent popes have performed exorcisms within the walls of Vatican City, Pope John Paul II, and Pope Benedict XVI.
According to Father Gabriele Amorth, Pope John Paul II performed his first exorcism in the Vatican in March 1982. A young woman was brought before him and immediately upon seeing the Pope, she began to spasm in pain. The Pope told the young woman that he would say a mass in her name. They were reconnected years later, and all was well with her.
His second exorcism was said to have happened in St. Peter's Square, sometime in the year 2000. Another young woman was brought before him, this time she attempted to attack the Pope, and needed to be restrained by multiple people. He attempted an exorcism right there, but was unsuccessful in fully ridding the woman of demons. The job was finished by Father Amoroth over the course of several exorcisms.
Father Amoroth said that he thought Pope John Paul II to be one of the greatest exorcists of his time in the church, but he thought that the Devil was more fearful of Pope Benedict XVI. Apparently, in May 2009, Father Amoroth attended St. Peter's Square with two young men he believed to be possessed. When the Pope exited his popemobile, both men started smashing their heads into the ground. From distance, Pope Benedict raised his arms and blessed both men, causing them to fly physically backwards through the air, free from demonic influence.
Are demons real? Do exorcisms truly work? I can't say for sure, but I know that faith is powerful, and the faith of the Pope and the devout around the world is very real.