VATICAN CITY - Father Gabriele Amorth works in the dark.
But also by the light of day, this faithful priest says his job is often at odds with the rest of the Catholic Church. He became the official exorcist of diocese of Rome in June 1986, during John Paul II's papacy. Today, at 86, this member of Society of St. Paul is still fighting what he calls "the Great Enemy." The devil is his name.
Father Amorth tells the story of his lifelong battle against Satan in the newly published book L'Ultimo Esorcista (The Last Exorcist). The book was written together with Paolo Rodari, a journalist with the Italian newspaper Il Foglio.
Besides Lucifer, the priest's other enemies are all those people who don't believe the devil exists. "Your Eminence, you should read a book," father Amorth once told a powerful cardinal of the Roman Curia who had said the devil was just "a result of superstition."
The cardinal asked: "What book?"
"The Gospels," Amorth shot back. "Am I wrong or are the exorcisms one of Jesus's primary activities?"
The priest practices eight to 10 exorcisms a day, including on Sunday and Christmas day. He thinks the devil is everywhere, even in the Vatican's holy rooms. He says that John Paul II was convinced as well, and also practiced his own exorcisms.
The Polish pontiff's first exorcism took place on March 27, 1982. The then bishop of the central Italy town of Spoleto, Ottorino Alberti, brought a young woman, Francesca Fabrizi, to him. Once in front of him, she started to sob, writhing on the ground, despite the Pope's commands for the devil to retreat. She calmed down only when John Paul II said: "Tomorrow I will say mass for you."
A few years later, the woman visited John Paul together with her husband. She was peaceful, happy, and pregnant. "I've never seen anything like this before," the Pope told the head of the papal household, Cardinal Jacques Martin, according to the latter's memoirs. "It was a biblical scene," the Pope added.
Benedict XVI won't go there
Current Pope Benedict XVI does not perform exorcisms, but Amorth believes the devil considers him even more dangerous than John Paul II. In his book, Amorth writes that two of his assistants took two victims of demonic possession to St. Peter's Square to see a papal general audience. When they saw the Pope, they fell to the ground, rolling around, screaming and drooling. Benedict noticed them, got closer, and blessed them. It looked like they had been lashed, and knocked backwards severa meters. Amorth writes.
According to Amorth, the devil has always tempted the Church hierarchies and the inhabitants of the Vatican. He says that satanic sects are behind the case of Emanuela Orlandi, the daughter of a Vatican City employee who mysteriously disappeared on June 22, 1983.
"A 15-year-old girl [as Orlandi was at the time] does not get it in a car if she does not know the person inviting her to get in. I think investigations were necessary inside, not outside the Vatican. I think that only someone that Emanuela knew well could have convinced her to get in the car. Often satanic sects do it: they invite a girl in a car and then they make her disappear."
In 1999, Luigi Marinelli, a retired priest and a former member of the Vatican's Congregation for Eastern Churches, published the book Gone with the Wind In The Vatican denouncing nepotism, corruption, and sexual scandals of the Catholic Church. But no one did anything. "It should have been an alarm bell for the Church. But it wasn't," says Amorth.
The priest believes that the devil tempts everyone: religious and lay people, adults and children. A striking case happened in the small northern Italian town of Chiavenna in June 2000, when three teenagers killed a nun named Maria Laura Mainetti. They later said it was a sacrifice to the devil. At the time, the press put the emphasis on the girls' obsession for esotericism and worship of the rock singer Marilyn Manson.
"Of course, I cannot say the cause of the murder was Manson's song or Manson himself," says Amorth. "But let's be clear: Satanic music is one of the main vehicles to spread Satanism among young people. The messages of satanic music influence the hearts and minds of young people. Via this kind of music, young people get in touch with new and previously unknown topics. They reach evil's frontiers, places they had not explored before."