On Satan’s trail with Don Gabriele, the world’s most famous exorcist

On Satan’s trail with Don Gabriele, the world’s most famous exorcist

Richard Owen, Rome

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Father Gabriele Amorth said Pope Benedict XVI himself ?fully believes in liberation from Evil, because the Devil lodges in the Vatican.

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Father Gabriele Amorth

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“Are you afraid of the Devil?” The world’s most famous exorcist levels his gaze at me and then smiles.

“No, it is he who is afraid of me. I work in the name of the Lord. Poor Satan.”

Poor Satan?

“Oh yes. The Evil One shouts and makes noises, but we are made in God’s image, we have the Holy Trinity on our side. There is no need to be afraid of the Devil unless we give in to his temptations.”

Related Links
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  • How to perform an exorcism

We are in the infirmary of the Society of St Paul, the order of Father Gabriele Amorth, in the shadow of St Paul’s Basilica, Rome. The Vatican’s chief exorcist was taken to hospital last autumn with a blood infection and is now convalescing — “they found nothing serious”. Perhaps it was the Devil who laid him low. “Oh no — just an illness. He has more serious evil to perform.”

Father Amorth made headlines this week by suggesting that those who had “given in to Satan’s temptations” included paedophile priests and even some cardinals and bishops who paid only lip service to the Gospels.

The growing crisis over the clerical sex abuse now engulfing Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican, he said, was the work of Satan, who had even “infiltrated the Vatican corridors”.

Is the sex abuse crisis really due to the Devil? “Oh yes. All evil is due to the intervention of the Devil, including paedophilia.”

And the Vatican? “Legions of demons have lodged there. The majority of those in the Vatican do good work. But Pope Paul VI talked about the ‘smoke of Satan’ infiltrating the Vatican as long ago as 1972. Satan sets out to damage the leadership of the Church — and of politics, industry and sport, for that matter.”

And although all manner of incidents, scandals and misdemeanours in Italy and abroad leap to mind as potential evidence of diabolical intervention, he declines to give examples. Father Amorth — or Don Gabriele, as he is universally known — has just published The Memoirs of an Exorcist, a book of interviews with Marco Tosatti, the Vatican journalist. In a style that is somewhat reminiscent of a medieval chronicle, he describes his often hair-raising experiences over the past quarter of a century in the front line against the Evil One and his minions.

Father Amorth, aged nearly 85, is honorary president of the International Association of Exorcists. He fought for the Resistance in the Second World War, took a law degree but then entered the Church. He began conducting exorcisms shortly after his ordination 60 years ago; in 1986 he was appointed by Cardinal Ugo Poletti, then the Vicar of Rome, as assistant to Father Candido Amantini, the chief exorcist, eventually succeeding him.

Now frail, he becomes animated as he describes his life-long struggle with demons who possess the bodies of their victims, at one stage spreading his arms wide to show me the length of one particular demon occupying the body of a woman he had “liberated”.

He talks to Lucifer and his demons, he says, and knows their names. On the writing table in his room he keeps pictures of the Virgin Mary and Jesus, “who came into the world to fight the Devil and return us to God”. But the modern world, he says, has “given in to the Evil One. You see it in the lack of faith, the empty churches, the collapse of the family.”

“Compare the world of today to when I was a boy in Modena: families and parish communities were strong, women did not go out to work. Now they have to because one income cannot support a family. So young people are left to their own devices, they get into bad company, they have lost their roots and replaced them with the negative influences of television and the internet, or the occult.”

What about those who believe in neither God nor Satan? “The Devil is only too happy to take advantage of those who do not believe in his existence. It means he can operate with complete freedom, even inside the Church. He exploits lust and power.”

The Devil tries to reach all of us, Father Amorth adds, and “the possessed are those who listen to him most. Mind you, they are a minority. If you read my book you might get the impression the whole world is possessed, but I am describing a small number of cases, comparatively speaking.”

His claim to have carried out 70,000 exorcisms seems incredible. “But I was talking about the number of exorcisms, not the number of people exorcised. You often have to exorcise someone dozens, even hundreds, of times, and an exorcism ritual can take anything from a few minutes to several hours.”

Exorcism can only be done with the approval of the local bishop, usually after medical or psychiatric tests show no rational explanation for the symptoms, which include vomiting, violent headaches and stomach cramps but also superhuman strength, fits and extreme aversion to holy symbols. He is adept, he says, at distinguishing hysterics from the real thing. There are more women than men among the possessed, “but we don’t know why. There are various explanations: Satan taking revenge on the Virgin Mary, or using women as a means of reaching men. None of them is convincing.”

The possessed talk in languages they do not know, including ancient tongues such as Aramaic, the language of Christ. “Sometimes the language is incomprehensible. I once asked a demon what it was and he said, ‘Satanic language’.” The victims often react so violently to the ritual of prayers, incantations, holy water and the sign of the Cross that they have to be held or tied down while the priest touches the possessed person with his stole and places his hand on his or her head.

In many cases, he says, they vomit objects such as nails or glass. Father Amorth has a collection weighing two kilograms. “You get used to being vomited over. I once performed an exorcism on a woman who managed to hit me in the face with a stream of vomit from the other side of the room — physically impossible.”

The Devil, he says, is humourless but does sometimes play tricks. He and his demons speak through the victim, sometimes using their normal voice but sometimes in hoarse, raucous tones. He imitates the unnerving low growl for me. They are not, however visible, any more than angels are.

“Angels exist, and how, but they are not as depicted in art — they are pure spirit. We all have guardian angels. Demons are, of course, fallen angels who rebelled against God; that is why they are so intelligent, and so arrogant.”

He does not believe in ghosts, which are “an invention of the human mind”.

Father Amorth has no designated successor, and complains that even now the Church hierarchy does not take exorcism — or the Devil — seriously enough. But “the Lord has made use of me” and his example has inspired many other priests — as did the 1973 film The Exorcist, which although “exaggerated” was “substantially true”.

At his age does he still have the stomach for the battle with Satan? “Oh yes. I have work to do.”

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What Makes Christians so Gullible?

Why is Obama’s evil in Rick Warren’s pulpit?

NBC’s “crazy christians” show — But Hollywood writers know that in a free-speech society, people are free to denounce Hollywood’s shows when they are vile and disgusting. There’s also a remarkable double standard at work here. While denouncing the free-speech rights of “crazy Christians,” Hollywood exercises its own restrictions, zealously avoiding on camera the many social taboos — smoking cigarettes, say — to which it subscribes.

NBC’s “crazy christians” show
By Brent Bozell III
Friday, September 15, 2006
Maybe it’s a good thing that television writers don’t try too hard to get involved with plots about religion. The thoroughly secular TV world seems to tolerate about one seriously religiously themed series at a time. It’s much more common to engage the topic of religion as an odd joke, as an intensely greedy racket of quacks or as the inspiration for a flock of oppressive mind-numbed zombies out to ruin everyone’s guilty pleasures. Usually, they’re simply “crazy Christians.”

That’s the central plot twist in the premiere of the new NBC drama “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” created by “West Wing” producer-writer Aaron Sorkin. The show goes behind the scenes of a fictional sketch-comedy program resembling “Saturday Night Live” at a fictional network called UBS. The censors at UBS have scratched a skit titled “Crazy Christians,” and now all hell will break loose. We’re never shown the skit, but we’re told repeatedly that it’s demonstrably hilarious.

Sorkin uses his first script to throw sharp knives and rusty razors at the Americans who’ve lobbied for less filthy television. The show begins with an improbable “standards and practices” censor telling the producer of the fictional “SNL” that he can’t run “Crazy Christians” because “what do you want me to say to the 50 million people who are gonna go out of their minds as soon as it airs?” The producer cracks wise: “Well, first of all, you can tell ’em we average 9 million households, so at least 41 million of them are full of crap. Second, you can tell ’em that living where there’s free speech means sometimes you’re gonna get offended.”

But Hollywood writers know that in a free-speech society, people are free to denounce Hollywood’s shows when they are vile and disgusting. There’s also a remarkable double standard at work here. While denouncing the free-speech rights of “crazy Christians,” Hollywood exercises its own restrictions, zealously avoiding on camera the many social taboos — smoking cigarettes, say — to which it subscribes.

What Hollywood likes is having the almighty power to offend — to “challenge” society, as they like to describe it — freely. But only some people are sought out for offending. For every supposedly crazy parent who worries about sex, violence and smutty talk on TV, perhaps there’s another supposedly crazy parent who worries about different offenses, such as Twinkie commercials or scenes with cool, beautiful people smoking cigarettes. But those parents don’t get mocked by scriptwriters. It is those with religious objections who get singled out.

But Sorkin wasn’t done lecturing. When his skit is axed, the outraged fictional “SNL” producer bounds onto the stage and unleashes a lecture on live television. It’s what Sorkin has probably wanted to say about network executives (and their alleged overreaction to those crazy Christians) many times: “The two things that make them scared gutless are the FCC and every psycho religious cult that gets positively horny at the very mention of a boycott.” Sorkin was so impressed with his own insult that it reruns later in the show in fictional news clips.

Two major characters fight over how their romance broke up when the woman sang hymns on “The 700 Club.” Again, Sorkin aims low, insisting Pat Robertson is a vicious racist. “You put on a dress and sang for a bigot.” When the woman replies that the faithful audience of the show inspires her, he cracks, “Throw in the Halloween costumes and you got yourself a Klan rally.”

Sorkin actually pushed a similar plot for the first episode of “The West Wing,” in which lovable liberal President Josiah Bartlet instructed a clueless, caricatured Christian evangelist who didn’t know the order of the Ten Commandments and then unloaded a long sermon on vicious Christian pro-lifers threatening his 12-year-old granddaughter. He told the conservative Christians to get their fat (bottoms) out of his White House.

Maybe cursing out the Christians is his show-opening good luck charm.

While Sorkin has an obvious problem with Christianity, it’s actually broader than that. He thinks religion in general is bunk. In 2002, he told a crowd at the Sinai Temple in Los Angeles that “I was turned off on religion.” The rabbi interviewing him asked him if he believed in God. He said he viewed the wide array of religions as “many fairytales” that “seem hardly to be doing what they intended.” For Sorkin, spirituality was “a meditative thing that has to do with helping others and not waiting for it to come from a divine source.”

What this means is Sorkin — and all the Sorkins in Hollywood — are probably never going to write a daring, potentially offensive script with the concept of mocking “crazy atheists.” Instead, in our upside-down popular culture, the unbeliever is the sacred cow.

Lecturer, syndicated columnist, television commentator, debater, marketer, businessman, author, publisher and activist, L. Brent Bozell III, 51, is one of the most outspoken and effective national leaders in the conservative movement today.

IF A MUSLIM CAN WEAR HER VEIL TO WORK WHY IS MY CROSS FORBIDDEN?

IF A MUSLIM CAN WEAR HER VEIL TO WORK WHY IS MY CROSS FORBIDDEN?

EXCLUSIVE: BA ROW WOMAN SPEAKS OUT..

By Julie Mccaffrey

IT is smaller than a 10 pence piece and all but invisible to people standing just inches away.

Yet Nadia Eweida’s tiny white gold cross is at the centre of a huge legal row that has engulfed Britain’s biggest airline and infuriated religious groups.

Check-in worker Nadia, 55, was forced to take unpaid leave by British Airways after refusing to remove the Christian emblem. But she claims it is a clear display of double standards as Muslims can wear head scarves and Sikh males their turbans.

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“It seems that only Christians are forbidden to express their faith,” she told the Mirror. “I am not ashamed to be Christian and shouldn’t be made to feel that way.

 

“I want people to know I am a Christian when they meet me.

 

Just like people know when they meet a Muslim.”

 

The case echoes that of Fiona Bruce, the newsreader who has not worn her cross necklace on television since BBC governors debated whether it would cause offence to other religions.

 

And it bears striking similarities to the Muslim teacher Aishah Azmi, from Dewsbury, Yorkshire, who is taking legal action after being suspended for wearing a veil in lessons.

 

It will only add to the row over religious clothing after Jack Straw asked Muslim women to ditch their veils.

 

Hundreds of Nadia’s colleagues have demanded she be reinstated and yesterday Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain insisted:

 

“Frankly, I think the British Airways order for her not to wear a cross was loopy.”

 

As backing for Nadia grows, BA is faced with rumours of staff strikes, Christian boycotts and a slump in ticket sales.

 

JOHN Andrews, communications officer for the diocese of Bath and Wells, said: “I think BA is being extremely offensive to members of the Christian faith.

 

“It is rather more than an ornament. It is more than an item of jewellery.”

 

Meanwhile Nadia, from Twickenham, West London, is set to sue for religious discrimination.

 

She said: “My case shows a company so scared of upsetting a minority that it has swung too far to the other side and upset the majority.

 

“It is clearly not fair that I am prohibited from wearing my cross, when Muslim ladies are allowed to wear a hijab and Sikhs freely wear turbans.

 

“They immediately identify that person’s religion. I imagine that’s why the teacher in Dewsbury is fighting to wear her veil.

 

She should be allowed to wear it in the classroom. I respect her views but what I don’t respect is one rule for some and another for others.”

 

Ironically, the row started the day after Nadia, who has an exemplary seven-year record with British Airways and is based at Heathrow’s Terminal Four, attended a training course on diversity and dignity at work.

 

“We spent the day learning how to integrate and understand different cultures, religions, sexual orientations and political allegiances,” she recalled.

 

“The next day my duty manager asked me to take off my cross. I said it was an expression of my faith. But she refused to accept that.

 

“I’d worn it many times, but all of a sudden it was an issue. “I was sent to see the customer services manager, who then sent me home.”

 

NADIA, who is single and looks after her elderly mother, was born in Egypt to an Egyptian father and English mother.

 

She believes that, instead of constantly trying not to offend a minority faith, employers should demonstrate equal consideration towards people of all faiths.

 

“As a Christian in a Muslim country, I was in the minority and held tightly to my faith,” she explained. “I wear a cross because it reminds me what Jesus Christ did for mankind. I think I am within my rights to wear it.”

 

Nadia, who attends church up to seven times a week, has the backing of her local MP Vincent Cable, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, who called BA “disgraceful and petty”. And she also has the backing of her union, the TGWU.

 

However Nadia, whose great grandfather Thomas Paine helped found the Salvation Army, claims to be overwhelmed by all the attention.

 

She said: “I didn’t expect this to escalate. And it seems that the more people who know about my case, the angrier they become.

 

“But I am not getting angrier, I am growing more determined.

 

“My ultimate aim is firstly to win an apology from British Airways, saying sorry to me for their behaviour and sorry to all their Christian workers who wish to express their faith.

 

“Secondly, I want to return to the job I loved. I’m not ashamed of what has happened, and if I go back I won’t have my tail between my legs.

 

“Sometimes it takes one person to make a change by putting their head above the parapet. And if that has to be me, then so be it. I am a loyal and conscientious employee of British Airways but I feel I must stand up for the rights of all Christians, and all citizens.”

 

A BA spokeswoman emphasised that Miss Eweida has not been suspended and said an appeal was due to be heard some time next week.

 

She said BA recognised that employees may wish to wear jewellery including religious symbols. “Our policy states these items can be worn, underneath the uniform. There is no ban.

 

“This rule applies for all jewellery and religious symbols on chains and is not specific to the Christian cross.”

 

 

julie.mccaffrey@mirror.co.uk