By George Thomas
CBN News Senior Reporter
April 18, 2008

CBNNews.com – ROME, Italy – In this predominantly Catholic nation the devil is gaining a foothold.

"There is a greater openness towards the devil," Rev. Gabriele Amorth, the Vatican’s chief exorcist, said.

In fact, Rome has been called the most ‘satanized’ city in Italy.

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"Satanism and the occult are in fashion," said Father Pedro Barrajón, a professor of theology.

Satan En Vogue

There are an estimated 800 satanic cults operating in the country,
with more than 600,000 followers. And their numbers are growing.

"The devil’s diabolical influence is growing in so many areas of our
society. He needs to be driven out!" Pastor Silvano Lilli of
International Evangelical Church said.

Leading the battle to drive the devil out of Italy is 82-year-old Amorth.

"This is the room where I do my exorcisms," he said, indicating a
small room, not too far from the Vatican. There Amorth uses the
practice of exorcism to drive out the devil from possessed souls.

"If a person is not violent, I let them sit in this armchair, and I
do the exorcism here. If they are violent I lay them down and if
necessary I also tie them down," he said.

Amorth, as the Vatican’s Chief Exorcist, is the driving force behind the Catholic Church’s renewed campaign against the devil.

He showed CBN News where he works but refused to let us tape him confronting Satan.

"I also use oil. It’s the oil used for mass, the same used in a
baptism and I’ve seen that it works. I’ve seen that it works, so I use
it," he said.

Amorth says "exorcism is God’s true miracle" to confronting the devil and his handmaidens.

"Medicine and science have cases they can’t solve but which are instead solved by exorcism," Amorth said.

Exorcism 101

The devil’s growing influence has even gotten the attention of the
Vatican. Last year it started offering courses to its bishops on
exorcisms.

Barrajón is teaching some of the exorcism classes.

"Our bishops need to know how to confront the devil," Barrajón said.
"They need to know how an exorcism is conducted and how to help set
people free from the influence of the devil."

Italians got a taste of the devil’s influence a couple of years ago
when two teenagers were stabbed, bludgeoned and buried alive here in
the woods northwest Milan.

Members of a heavy metal band named the Beasts of Satan were
convicted in the double murder. One of the victims was allegedly killed
because she resembled the Virgin Mary.

"Despite the fact that the presence of the satanic world is fairly
widespread, we only knew of rituals where animals were slaughtered. As
to rituals involving human sacrifice, this was the first case," Italian
police lieutenant Enzo Molinaro said.

Since then, Italian authorities have been grappling with a string of
murders linked to devil worship. The Vatican now has priests working
alongside law enforcement officers to tackle a wave of satanic crimes.

"We invite the police to sit-in on the exorcism classes so that they
can understand the spiritual and theological dimensions of this
phenomenon," Barrajón said.

Black Magic if You Please

Many Italians are forsaking priests for magicians, fortune-tellers
and faith healers. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry that employs
thousands of practitioners like Sensitive Mariano.

Mariano, who’s real name is Salvatore, claims he received the powers of healing and prophecy as a child.

Today he performs an exorcism on Esperanza, a troubled housewife whose life was falling apart until she saw Mariano on TV.

But the Catholic Church insists that such freelancers are not welcome.

"They are crooks – they are not exorcists.It’s possible to pray to
God to free a person – but proclaiming themselves exorcists, they are
cheating people," Amorth insisted.

But Marco Dimiti says that the Catholic Church’s portrayal of Satan is part of the problem.

To many Italians, Dimitri represents the devil. He heads the Children of Satan, a group that reportedly has more than a thousand members.

"We don’t have a cult of devil worship. Yhat would be absurd because
the cult of the devil would be the cult of evil – but for us, good and
evil are subjective to each individual," he said.

In 1996, Dimitri was accused of raping a two-year old boy and a
teenage girl in satanic rituals. He was jailed for 14 months before
being exonerated by the Italian courts.

"True Satanism puts man at the center of the universe – and is a
noble expression. I want to say to Father Amorth what I say to all
exorcists. Leave people in peace! "he said.

Possessed – or Mentally Ill?

Amorth is a busy man these days. He says that every week he sees up to 50 people who claim to be possessed by the devil.

"I see a very strong presence of the devil because men are following
him," Amorth said. He has helped train some 300 priests in exorcism. 

Barrajón says the key is to train the priests on how to differentiate between psychiatric problems and satanic possession.

"This is the key, but I can tell you that those who perform
exorcisms, they just have this sense, they just know," Barrajón said.

"Sometimes they look for signs like if the person is afraid of the
cross or baptismal water or pictures of Christ," he said. "They shake a
lot or start screaming and they may possess extraordinary strength. The
priests know what to look for."

Barrajón is encouraging Italians to pray more often, attend church and be aware of an enemy that is very real.

He said. "The actions of the devil are not just limited to here in
Italy- his evil spirit is roaming the earth, tempting people. We are
trying to educate the society and families about the dangers of his
influence."

source URL: http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/360212.aspx

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