Pope Pius XII performed exorcisms on Adolf Hitler, the Nazis, and the Communist Party. The work of an Italian Vaticanist published this autumn lifts a corner of the veil on exorcisms practiced by the popes and long clothed in papal secrecy.
“The devil’s greatest malice is to make people believe that he does not exist,” Baudelaire said. For those who still have doubts, the Vaticanist Fabio Marchese Ragona, has just published in September 2020, a book entitled Il mio nome è Satana – My Name is Satan.
One of the work’s interests lies in several accounts of exorcisms carried out in the Vatican itself, by various sovereign pontiffs, in particular by Pope Pius XII, who tried to cast out the demon by whom he estimated that Adolf Hitler was possessed.
It was not until 2006, recalls Fabio Marchese Ragona, that the Holy See decided to make this unprecedented fact public: anxious to take all natural and supernatural means in order to put an end to the mass killings committed, particularly against the Jews, by the Third Reich, Pope Pacelli decided to perform an exorcism ritual “from a distance,” from the private chapel of the pontifical apartment.
Fr. Gabriele Amorth – famous Roman exorcist called to God in 2016 – told Vatican News at the time that Pope Pius XII was convinced that the atrocities committed by Hitler and the Nazis could only have a diabolical origin.
But this is not the only exorcism that John XXIII’s predecessor performed from the Vatican. The author of Il mio nome e Satana confides in having discovered, during the investigation which enabled him to write his book, documents attesting that the Pope had also carried out an exorcism on the Italian Communist Party, on the eve of the elections of 1958.
Pius XII was hoping to prevent the Communist Party, notoriously anti-Catholic, from winning the elections. It should be remembered, ten years earlier, the same Roman pontiff had approved a decree of the Holy Office prohibiting any Catholic, under pain of canonical sanctions, from joining or supporting the Communist Party.
Long after his death, in a 1969 report, Pius XII’s own nephew testified to seeing that his uncle was very anxious and had trouble sleeping in the days leading up to the 1958 election: “in the three days leading up to the vote, the pope also performed exorcisms,” ensures Carlo Pacelli.
He also noted that Pius XII had prayed and offered penance and his own sufferings for this intention: a sign of Providence, the Pope’s prayers were answered, and the Communists lost the election.
As Fabio Marchese Ragona points out at the beginning of his book: “The devil can win battles. Sometimes important ones. But never the war.” Enough to give a little hope when the darkness of circumstances seems to prevail.