Lord save us, but the Vatican's chief exorcist has really unloaded on his own cardinals by claiming that "the Devil is at work inside the Vatican."

Father Gabriele Amorth, 85, who has been chief exorcist for 25 years, says there are "cardinals who do not believe in Jesus, and bishops who are linked to the Demon."

He added: "When one speaks of 'the smoke of Satan' [a phrase coined by Pope Paul VI in 1972] in the holy rooms, it is all true -- including these latest stories of violence and pedophilia."

Amorth has just published "Memoirs of an Exorcist," and said that the devil was "pure spirit, invisible. But he manifests himself with blasphemies and afflictions in the person he possesses. He can remain hidden, or speak in different languages, transform himself or appear to be agreeable. At times he makes fun of me."

Acording to the London Times, it sometimes took six or seven of his assistants to hold down a possessed person. Those possessed often yelled and screamed and spat out nails or pieces of glass, which he kept in a bag.

"Anything can come out of their mouths -- finger-length pieces of iron, but also rose petals."

He said that he hoped every diocese would eventually have a resident exorcist.

Father José Antonio Fortea Cucurull, a Rome-based exorcist, said that Amorth had "gone well beyond the evidence" in saying that Satan had infiltrated the Vatican corridors.

"Cardinals might be better or worse, but all have upright intentions and seek the glory of God," he said. Some Vatican officials were more pious than others, "but from there to affirm that some cardinals are members of satanic sects is an unacceptable distance."