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As Pope John Paul II completed his weekly audience in St. Peter's Square, a young woman leaped up right in front of him, hurled herself to the ground and began screaming obscenities and blasphemies in a man's raucous voice.
The frail but dedicated pope didn't withdraw or seek safety. Instead, worried that the woman had been possessed by the devil, he bravely met the challenge head-on, reveals Father Gabriele Amorth, the Vatican's leading exorcist.
"The pope himself is a powerful exorcist," Father Amorth told The ENQUIRER in an exclusive interview.
"It took five security men several minutes to subdue the young woman. She was supernaturally strong. The pope remained very calm. He asked for her to be taken into a nearby room. When the girl, finally restrained, entered the room, the pontiff talked to her gently but firmly and performed an impromptu exorcism."
The young woman obtained immediate but short-lived relief, said Father Amorth, a world-renowned authority on the rite.
"The pope summoned me to perform another exorcism on her after her relapse. She started doing what we exorcists call the 'run of the mill' -- rolling around on the ground, and speaking with a man's voice."
The voice mocked the 81-year-old pope, sneering, "You see, not even your boss could do anything to chase me from the body of this beautiful, young virgin."
Revealed Father Amorth: "Once a month the young woman travels to Rome to have an exorcism performed by me to keep Satan away. It's the most difficult case I've ever dealt with."
The pope's head-to-head encounter with the devil took place last fall -- but it was not his first, Father Amorth told The ENQUIRER, revealing for the first time the details of John Paul II's face-to-face battles with the ultimate evil.
"He has performed at least three exorcisms during his pontificate. The first one took place in 1982. I was told about it by my teacher, the late Father Candido, who had witnessed the rite in the Vatican. Following the pope's orders, he would not reveal details about it."
However, Father Candido did reveal the subject was a young man who had undergone exorcisms with other priests. They had been unsuccessful in casting out the devil.
"The pope agreed to see him after being told that the young man was going through such hell that he had threatened to take his own life," divulged Father Amorth.
"The long and difficult rite performed by the pope was fully successful and the man left the Vatican beaming with joy -- with a new life ahead of him."
The pope's next exorcism took place in 1998 when he was confronted by a girl who contorted herself in seemingly impossible ways... like a terrifying scene from "The Exorcist."
"The girl was taken to the Vatican and led before the pope," revealed Father Amorth, who has himself performed more than 50,000 exorcisms.
"As soon as she saw the pope, she started wriggling as if to free herself from invisible chains. She twisted her body in totally unnatural ways, her joints bending in the opposite direction of normal movement. She uttered blasphemies and insulted the pope, but John Paul II remained calm.
"He raised the crucifix over the head of the possessed girl and said with a steady voice: 'I order you, Satan, to leave the body of this creature.'
"He had to repeat it several times, but finally the devil abandoned the girl. She instantly returned to being the kind and gentle person she was before Satan took possession of her."
Father Amorth says he's seen Satan in many shocking forms.
"I've seen thin and apparently weak girls who could not be subdued by eight strong men. I've seen people levitating, vomiting pieces of a transistor radio, others vomiting live toads and reptiles along with nails.
"I've heard practically illiterate persons speaking fluently in five or six different languages, including ancient Greek and Latin -- and women speaking with men's voices and children speaking with adult voices."
These shocking scenes leave no doubt that the devil is an influential presence in the world, said Father Amorth.
"The pope agreed to perform these three exorcisms to underline the real threat that Satan is to all of us in everyday life," said the priest.