An Interview With Fr Gabriele Amorth - The Church's Leading Exorcist who said "Devil is in Vatican"
Father Gabriele Amorth said people who are possessed by Satan vomit shards of glass and pieces of iron. He added that the assault on Pope Benedict XVI on Christmas Eve by a mentally unstable woman and the sex abuse scandals which have engulfed the Church in the US, Ireland, Germany and other countries, were proof that the Anti-Christ was waging a war against the Holy See."The Devil resides in the Vatican and you can see the consequences," said Father Amorth, 85, who has been the Holy See's chief exorcist for 25 years.
He can remain hidden, or speak in different languages, or even appear to be sympathetic. At times he makes fun of me. But I'm a man who is happy in his work." While there was "resistance and mistrust" towards the concept of exorcism among some Catholics, Pope Benedict XVI has no such doubts, Father Amorth said. "His Holiness believes wholeheartedly in the practice of exorcism. He has encouraged and praised our work," he added. The evil influence of Satan was evident in the highest ranks of the Catholic hierarchy, with "cardinals who do not believe in Jesus and bishops who are linked to the demon," Father Amorth said.
"From their mouths, anything can come out – pieces of iron as long as a finger, but also rose petals," said Father Amorth, who claims to have performed 70,000 exorcisms. "When the possessed dribble and slobber, and need cleaning up, I do that too. Seeing people vomit doesn't bother me. The exorcist has one principal duty - to free human beings from the fear of the Devil."
The attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II by a Turkish gunman in 1981 and recent revelations of "violence and paedophilia" committed by Catholic priests against children in their care was also the work of the Devil, said Father Amorth, who has written a book about his vocation, Memoirs of an Exorcist, which was published recently.
I am convinced that the Nazis were all possessed. All you have to do is think about what Hitler and Stalin did.
He also condemned the Harry Potter books, saying they were dangerous because they dabbled in the occult and failed to draw a clear distinction between "the Satanic art" of black magic and benevolent white magic.
How does he recognise someone possessed by evil spirits?
I ask Father Amorph to describe the ritual of exorcism.
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?
But couldn't an hysteric imitate the symptoms?
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.
The ritual does not specify the stance of the exorcist. Some stand, some sit. The ritual says only that, beginning with the words Ecce crucem Domini ('Behold the Cross of the Lord') the priest should touch the neck of the possessed one with the hem of his stole and hold his hand on his head. The demons will want to hide. Our task is to expose them, and then expel them. There are many ways to goad them into showing themselves. Although the ritual does not mention this, experience has taught us that using oil and holy water and salt can be very effective.
Demons are wary of talking and must be forced to speak. When demons are voluntarily chatty it's a trick to distract the exorcist. We must never ask useless questions out of curiosity. We but must interrogate with care. We always begin by asking for the demon's name.
And does he answer?
We ask if he is alone or if there are others with him. Usually there are two or five, 20 or 30. We must quantify the number. We ask when and how they entered that particular body. We find out whether their presence is due to a spell and the specifics of that spell.
During the exorcism the evil may emerge in slow stages or with sudden explosions. He does not want show himself. He will be angry and he is strong. During one exorcism I saw a child of 11 held down by four strong men. The child threw the men aside with ease. I was there when a boy of 10 lifted a huge, heavy table.
Afterwards I felt the muscles in the boy's arms. He could not have done it on his own. He had the strength of the Devil inside him.And are you sometimes frightened?
Go fight the Archangel Gabriel if you will.' That usually shuts them up. The secret is to find your demon's weak spot. Some demons cannot bear to have the Sign of the Cross traced with a stole on an aching part of the body; some cannot stand a puff of breath on the face; others resist with all their strength against blessing with holy water.
Relief for the patient is always possible, but to completely rid a person of his demons can take many exorcisms over many years. For a demon to leave a body and go back to hell means to die forever and to lose any ability to molest people in the future. He expresses his desperation saying: 'I am dying, I am dying. You are killing me; you have won. All priests are murderers'.How do people come to be possessed by demons in the first place?Why do many more women seem to become possessed than men?
Or it may be the Devil's way of getting at men, just as he got to Adam through Eve. What we do know is that the problem is getting worse. The Devil is gaining ground. We are living in an age when faith is diminishing. If you abandon God, the Devil will take his place.
All faiths, all cultures, have exorcists, but only Christianity has the true force to exorcise through Christ's example and authority. We need many more exorcists, but the bishops won't appoint them. In many countries - Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Spain there are no Catholic exorcists. It is a scandal. In England there are more Anglican exorcists than Catholic ones.What does the Pope make of all this?
In 1982, he performed a solemn exorcism on a girl from Spoletto. She screamed and rolled on the floor. Those who saw it were very frightened. The Pope brought her temporary freedom.
The other day, on September 6, at his weekly audience at St Peter's, a young woman from a village near Monza started to shriek as the Pope was about to bless her. She shouted obscenities at him in a strange voice. The Pope blessed her and brought her relief, but the Devil is still in her. She is exorcised each week in Milan and she is now coming to me once a month. It may take a long time to help her, but we must try. The work of the exorcists is to relieve suffering, to free souls from torment, to bring us closer to God.