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The Devil Makes Him Do It: Meet The Vatican's In-House Exorcist

At 86, Father Gabriele Amorth still performs several exorcisms per day. He sees the devil everywhere, including in the music of Marilyn Manson. And he's convinced that Satan - as much as he feared John Paul II - fears Pope Benedict XVI even more.

Does Satan dare tread on enemy turf?
Does Satan dare tread on enemy turf?
Bertrand Hauger
Giacomo Galeazzi

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."

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Green

Ecological Angst In India, A Mining Dumpsite As Neighbor

Local villagers in western India have been forced to live with a mining waste site on the edge of town. What happens when you wake up one day and the giant mound of industrial waste has imploded?

The mining dumpsite is situated just outside of the Badi village in the coastal state of Gujarat

Sukanya Shantha

BADI — Last week, when the men and women from the Bharwad community in this small village in western India stepped out for their daily work to herd livestock, they were greeted with a strange sight.

The 20-meter-high small hill that had formed at the open-cast mining dumpsite had suddenly sunk. Unsure of the reason behind the sudden caving-in, they immediately informed other villagers. In no time, word had traveled far, even drawing the attention of environment specialists and activists from outside town.

This mining dumpsite situated less than 500 meters outside of the Badi village in the coastal state of Gujarat has been a matter of serious concern ever since the Gujarat Power Corporation Limited began lignite mining work here in early 2017. The power plant is run by the Power Gujarat State Electricity Corporation Limited, which was previously known as the Bhavnagar Energy Company Ltd.

Vasudev Gohil, a 43-year-old resident of Badi village says that though the dumping site is technically situated outside the village, locals must pass the area on a daily basis.


"We are constantly on tenterhooks and looking for danger signs," he says. Indeed, their state of alert is how the sudden change in the shape of the dumpsite was noticed in the first place.

Can you trust environmental officials?

For someone visiting the place for the first time, the changes may not stand out. "But we have lived all our lives here, we know every little detail of this village. And when a 150-meter-long stretch cave-in by over 25-30 feet, the change can't be overlooked," Gohil adds.

This is not the first time that the dumpsite has worried local residents. Last November, a large part of the flattened part of the dumpsite had developed deep cracks and several flat areas had suddenly got elevated. While the officials had attributed this significant elevation to the high pressure of water in the upper strata of soil in the region, environment experts had pointed to seismic activities. The change is evident even today, nearly a year since it happened.

It could have sunk because of the rain.

After the recent incident, when the villagers raised an alarm and sent a written complaint to the regional Gujarat Pollution Control Board, an official visit to the site was arranged, along with the district administration and the mining department.

The regional pollution board officer Bhavnagar, A.G. Oza, insists the changes "aren't worrisome" and attributes it to the weather.

"The area received heavy rain this time. It is possible that the soil could have sunk in because of the rain," he tells The Wire. The Board, he says, along with the mining department, is now trying to assess if the caving-in had any impact on the ground surface.

"We visited the site as soon as a complaint was made. Samples have already been sent to the laboratory and we will have a clear idea only once the reports are made available," Oza adds.

Women from the Surkha village have to travel several kilometers to find potable water

Sukanya Shantha/The Wire

A questionable claim

That the dumpsite had sunk in was noticeable for at least three days between October 1 and 3, but Rohit Prajapati of an environmental watchdog group Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, noted that it was not the first time.

"This is the third time in four years that something so strange is happening. It is a disaster in the making and the authorities ought to examine the root cause of the problem," Prajapati says, adding that the department has repeatedly failed to properly address the issue.

He also contests the GPCB's claim that excess rain could lead to something so drastic. "Then why was similar impact not seen on other dumping sites in the region? One cannot arrive at conclusions for geological changes without a deeper study of them," he says. "It can have deadly implications."

Living in pollution

The villagers have also accused the GPCB of overlooking their complaint of water pollution which has rendered a large part of the land, most importantly, the gauchar or grazing land, useless.

"In the absence of a wall or a barrier, the pollutant has freely mixed with the water bodies here and has slowly started polluting both our soil and water," complains 23- year-old Nikul Kantharia.

He says ever since the mining project took off in the region, he, like most other villagers has been forced to take his livestock farther away to graze. "Nothing grows on the grazing land anymore and the grass closer to the dumpsite makes our cattle ill," Kantharia claims.

The mining work should have been stopped long ago

Prajapati and Bharat Jambucha, a well-known environmental activist and proponent of organic farming from the region, both point to blatant violations of environmental laws in the execution of mining work, with at least 12 violations cited by local officials. "But nothing happened after that. Mining work has continued without any hassles," Jambucha says. Among some glaring violations include the absence of a boundary wall around the dumping site and proper disposal of mining effluents.

The mining work has also continued without a most basic requirement – effluent treatment plant and sewage treatment plant at the mining site, Prajapati points out. "The mining work should have been stopped long ago. And the company should have been levied a heavy fine. But no such thing happened," he adds.

In some villages, the groundwater level has depleted over the past few years and villagers attribute it to the mining project. Women from Surkha village travel several kilometers outside for potable water. "This is new. Until five years ago, we had some water in the village and did not have to lug water every day," says Shilaben Kantharia.

The mine has affected the landscape around the villages

Sukanya Shantha/The Wire

Resisting lignite mining

The lignite mining project has a long history of resistance. Agricultural land, along with grazing land were acquired from the cluster of 12 adjoining villages in the coastal Ghogha taluka between 1994 and 1997. The locals estimate that villagers here lost anything between 40-100% of their land to the project. "We were paid a standard Rs 40,000 per bigha," Narendra, a local photographer, says.

The money, Narendra says, felt decent in 1994 but for those who had been dependent on this land, the years to come proved very challenging. "Several villagers have now taken a small patch of land in the neighboring villages on lease and are cultivating cotton and groundnut there," Narendra says.

They were dependent on others' land for work.

Bharat Jambucha says things get further complicated for the communities which were historically landless. "Most families belonging to the Dalit or other marginalized populations in the region never owned any land. They were dependent on others' land for work. Once villagers lost their land to the project, the landless were pushed out of the village," he adds. His organization, Prakrutik Kheti Juth, has been at the forefront, fighting for the rights of the villages affected in the lignite mining project.

In 2017, when the mining project finally took off, villagers from across 12 villages protested. The demonstration was disrupted after police used force and beat many protesters. More than 350 of them were booked for rioting.

The villagers, however, did not give up. Protests and hunger strikes have continued from time to time. A few villagers even sent a letter to the President of India threatening that they would commit suicide if the government did not return their land.

"We let them have our land for over 20 years," says Gohil.

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