Telegraph RSS feeds
Thursday 11 October 2007
telegraph.co.uk Hitwise
enhanced by Google
SEARCH
SEARCH

'The Devil is gaining ground'


Last Updated: 12:01am GMT /11/2000
Page 1 of 3



Gyles Brandreth meets the Roman Catholic church's Devil-hunter-in-chief and leading exorcist, who believes the forces of evil are gaining ground and is always on the look out for the signs of possession - white eyes, spitting and retching

ON the bumpy flight to Rome I read The Bible all the way. The passenger on my left - a wiry businesswoman from Wisconsin - found this disconcerting.

 
In Nomine Patre: Father Gabriele Amorth; exorcist by profession, accommodating by nature

As the turbulence worsened and I moved from Jude to Revelation, she hissed at me, "Do you have to?" I murmured: "It's only background reading." She grimaced. "What for?" I turned to her and whispered: "I'm going to meet the exorcist." She gasped: "Oh Christ", as the plane lurched and hot coffee spilled over us.

Father Gabriele Amorth is indeed the exorcist, the most senior and respected member of his calling. A priest for 50 years, he is the undisputed leader of the city's six exorcists (appointed by the cardinal to whom the Pope delegates the office of Vicar of Rome) and honorary president-for-life of the International Association of Exorcists. He is 75, small, spry, humorous, and wonderfully direct.

"I speak with the Devil every day," he says, grinning like a benevolent gargoyle. "I talk to him in Latin. He answers in Italian. I have been wrestling with him, day in day out, for 14 years." On cue (God is not worried by cliches) a shaft of October sunlight falls across Father Amorth's pale, round face. We are sitting at a table by the window in a small high-ceilinged meeting room at his Rome headquarters, the offices of the Society of St Paul.

Father Amorth has come to exorcism late in life, but with impressive credentials. Born in 1925 in Modena, northern Italy, the son and grandson of lawyers (his brother is a judge), Gabriele Amorth, in his late teens, joined the Italian resistance. Immediately after the war, he became a member of the fledgling Christian Democratic Party. Giulo Andreotti was president of the Young Christian Democrats, Amorth was his deputy.

advertisement

Andreotti went into politics and was seven times prime minister. Amorth, having studied law at university, went into the Church. He says: "From the age of 15 I knew it was my true vocation. My speciality was the Madonna. For many years I edited the magazine Madre di Deo (Mother of God). When I hear people say, 'You Catholics honour Mary too much,' I reply, 'We are never able to honour her enough.'

"I knew nothing of exorcism - I had given it no thought - until June 6, 1986 when Cardinal Poletti, the then Vicar of Rome, asked to see me. There was a famous exorcist in Rome then, the only one, Father Candido, but he was not well, and Cardinal Poletti told me I was to be his assistant. I learnt everything from Father Candido. He was my great master. Quickly I realised how much work there was to be done and how few exorcists there were to do it. From that day, I dropped everything and dedicated myself entirely to exorcism."

Father Amorth smiles continually as he tells his story. His enthusiasm for his subject is infectious and engaging. "Jesus performed exorcisms. He cast out demons. He freed souls from demonic possession and from Him the Church has received the power and office of exorcism. A simple exorcism is performed at every baptism, but major exorcism can be performed only by a priest licensed by the bishop. I have performed over 50,000 exorcisms. Sometimes it takes a few minutes, sometimes many hours. It is hard work - multo duro."

How does he recognise someone possessed by evil spirits? "It is not easy. There are many grades of possession. The Devil does not like to be seen, so there are people who are possessed who manage to conceal it. There are other cases where the person possessed is in acute physical pain, such agony that they cannot move.

"It is essential not to confuse demonic possession with ordinary illness. The symptoms of possession often include violent headaches and stomach cramps, but you must always go to the doctor before you go to the exorcist. I have people come to me who are not possessed at all. They are suffering from epilepsy or schizophrenia or other mental problems. Of the thousands of patients I have seen, only a hundred or so have been truly possessed."

"How can you tell?"

"By their aversion to the sacrament and all things sacred. If blessed they become furious. If confronted with the crucifix, they are subdued."

"But couldn't an hysteric imitate the symptoms?"

"We can sort out the phoney ones. We look into their eyes. As part of the exorcism, at specific times during the prayers, holding two fingers on the patient's eyes we raise the eyelids. Almost always, in cases of evil presence, the eyes look completely white. Even with the help of both hands, we can barely discern whether the pupils are towards the top or the bottom of the eye. If the pupils are looking up, the demons in possession are scorpions. If looking down, they are serpents."

Post this story to: del.icio.us | Digg | Newsvine | NowPublic | Reddit

External links
TV News Now
Video news as you want it, when you want it.
Sign (Hanoi, Vietnam), When you put it that way, it hardly seems like mugging
Absurd and amusing signs from around the world.
Radiohead
Radiohead's much-hyped new album was worth the wait.
Estate agent
Choose the right person when selling your property.




You are here: Telegraph > 

Health