VATICAN CITY (AFP) - The former exorcist of the Vatican and the Diocese of Rome, Gabriele Amorth, has died aged 91, Italian media on Sunday quoted his entourage as saying.
Amorth, who had been suffering from pulmonary problems, entered the priesthood in 1954 and was soon seconded to Father Candido Amantini, whom he succeeded in his post as the Vatican's chief exorcist in 1990.
He also founded the International Exorcists' Association (AIE), which he oversaw until his retirement in 2000 and which today has some 250 exorcists working in 30 countries.
In 2013, a French publishing house quoted him as saying he had performed 160,000 cases of exorcism - including prayer rituals as opposed to the casting out of demons "possessing" people.
Several cases of casting out evil spirits are ascribed to Jesus himself in the Gospels.
Amorth's work, The Last Exorcist - My Fight Against Satan, was published in France in 2013.
The Vatican officially recognised the AIE in 2014, some in the Roman Catholic Church having viewed exorcism as a questionable practice.
Amorth was famously asked several years ago if the Devil, to whom he often referred, was present inside the Vatican, to which he responded: "He has tried already," referring notably to the 1981 assassination attempt against John Paul II and also sex scandals within the Church.
He also spoke out against Harry Potter books, indicating reading that reading them encourages children to believe in black magic.
Pope Francis has often referred the the "Devil", demons and "Satan" being at work and cited the need to fight against evil.
Last week, the pontiff, asserted that killing in the name of God was "satanic" as he paid homage during a mass to mark the memory of French priest Jacques Hamel, murdered by Islamic extremists in France in July.