Says Halloween to blame for huge rise in demonic possessions in October
Catholic official says Vatican receives 100s of calls from worried parents
The Catholic Church has called for Halloween to be scrapped and replaced with 'Holyween' - a night in which children would attend prayer vigils and dress up as saints.
The Vatican's first official conference of exorcists warned of a danger to young people at Halloween when there is an increase in occult activity.
Father Aldo Buonaiuto, of the International Association of Exorcists, which met in Rome at the weekend, said that a spike in demonic possessions in October is down to the phenomenon of Halloween.
The organisation's emergency number receives hundreds of calls over this period, around 40 a day, especially from parents who fear that their child has been initiated into the occult, he said.
Spooked: Pope Francis scares a child as he tries to greet him during his general audience at St Peter's square. The Vatican has called for Halloween to be called 'Holyween' to cut the amount of occult acitivity
Pope Francis warned the conference of exorcists that they must treat those possessed with 'kindness'
He said: 'Many say Halloween is a simple carnival, but in fact there is nothing innocent or fun about it - it is the antechamber to something much more dangerous.
'There are always more evil rituals, animal sacrifices, desecrations of cemeteries and thefts of sacred bones at the time of the 31 October.
Participating in Halloween is 'like an initiation into the occult', he said.
'For the sects it is the best time of year to recruit new members. From here the door to the devil can be opened. For this reason its necessary for us to speak out and not play down the danger.'
To replace the 'dangerous' festival the Catholic Church in Italy have now launched the initiative 'Holyween', he said.
'While most people are seeped in zombies and horror we put on our door or windows a light or an image evocative of the saints.
The Catholic Church has called for Halloween to become a night in which children would attend prayer vigils and dress up as saints instead of devils
'And then there will be masses, prayer vigils and worship to celebrate the saints and victory of good over evil.'
The conference of 300 exorcists from all over the world took place over the weekend after being officially recognised by the Vatican in June.
At the conference, Pope Francis warned them that they must treat those possessed with 'kindness'.
He wrote in a message: 'Those who perform this particular ministry, in conjunction with the bishops' must work 'with love and kindness from the church towards those who suffer because of the evil one'.
More than many of his predecessors, Pope Francis likes to insist that Satan is real and speaks frequently about the Devil's work.
Last year he was captured performing an apparent exorcism. In astonishing footage he placed his hands on the head of a boy in a wheelchair, reciting an intense prayer until the boy slumped down exhaling sharply.