Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the sixth installment of the series, racked up 10 million in sales on the first day of its release in 2005.

Pope Benedict XVI's chief exorcist, Rev. Gabriele Amorth,has called fictional wizard-in-training Harry Potter the "king of darkness, the devil."

Amorth made the statement about the star ofthe best-selling children's series by British author J. K. Rowling during an interview with Vatican Radioduring the week.

"Magic is always a turn to the devil," said the Roman Catholic priest, according to Britain's Daily Mail newspaper.

Amorth, who is also the president of the International Association of Exorcists, said the seriescontains many positive references to "the satanic art" of magic and makes no distinction between black and white magic.

The Harry Potter series has sold more than 300 million copies worldwide andfour of the bookshave been made into films.

Rowling has revealed that two main characters will die in the seventh and last instalment, due to be published soon. It'sexpected to includea showdown between the teen wizard and his malevolent nemesis, Lord Voldemort.

"A price has to be paid, we are dealing with pure evil here," Rowling said during a British chat show interview.

Amorth compared the Potter character to dictators Stalin and Hitler, saying they were possessed by the devil.

"You can tell by their behavior and their actions, from the horrors they committed and the atrocities that were committed on their orders. That's why we need to defend society from demons," said Amorth, who has reportedly performed 30,000 exorcisms.

Pope also slammed Potter

Amorth'scriticisms of Potter weren't the first to emerge from theCatholic Church, which has never been a fan of the series.

Benedict voicedhis disapproval of the character and series before he becamePope in April 2005.

ThenCardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, he wrote a supportive letter in 2005 to the author of a book Harry Potter - Good or Evil? In it, sociologistGabriele Kuby hadargued that Harry Potter series distorts young people's ideas about the battle of good versus evil.

"It is good that you enlighten people about Harry Potter because those are subtle seductions, which act unnoticed and by this deeply distort Christianity in the soul before it can grow properly," Ratzinger told Kuby in his letter.