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Belief in the devil is incompatible with a modern, enlightened society - one would think. In Italy, the demand for exorcists has increased by 30 percent in just five years. Satan is more active than ever, the exorcists are convinced.

Padre Gabriele Amorth can be reached by phone every day between 4 and 5 p.m. Basically. Because if you want to speak to him, you have to have a lot of staying power. The most famous exorcist in Italy is very busy. Even at the age of 88, he still receives believers every day. Anyone who travels to Gabriele Amorth in Rome hopes to be redeemed from evil. The doyen of the Italian exorcists claims to have carried out 70,000 exorcisms in 21 years. For Amorth it is clear: Satan is more active than ever.

27 legions of demons in one person

The exorcist with the creepy expression is also a welcome guest on TV talk shows. TV 2000, the broadcaster of the Italian bishops, takes up the piquant topic of exorcism just as much as the state broadcasters of the RAI. In a broadcast on RAI Due, the exorcist Amorth appeared together with a 42-year-old gallery owner from Sicily who is said to have been possessed by 27 legions of demons.

The man suffered from severe asthma attacks that could hardly be treated with medication. After five years and countless exorcisms, he was now cured, the man told the camera. He protested that until this experience he had not believed in Satan. Padre Amorth nodded meaningfully and the host of the state television network was impressed. No one on the show questioned the existence of the devil.

Official courses at the Papal University

Two years ago, Padre Amorth published a book about his life. Title: «The Last Exorcist. My fight against Satan. " The lurid title could give the impression that there are hardly any exorcists in Italy. But that's not the case. Around 300 exorcists are currently said to be serving in Italy. Ascending trend.

The Vatican has responded to the increasing demand for exorcisms by offering courses for aspiring devil exorcists at a top-class papal university in Rome. The number of exorcists has already increased in various cities. For example, the Diocese of Milan has doubled the number of exorcists from six to twelve.

Pope Francis and Satan

According to Giacomo Galeazzi, Vaticanist for the liberal daily La Stampa, Pope Francis attaches great importance to exorcism. "The Pope has spoken of Satan almost every week since he took office." Benedict XVI. and John Paul II were convinced of the necessity of exorcisms.

It was different in the 1960s: after the Second Vatican Council, which was supposed to modernize the Catholic Church, the Church suppressed the existence of evil, according to Galeazzi. A reaction also to abuse: "Catholic exorcists had exaggerated beforehand and also exorcised people who were not possessed by the devil at all." However, skepticism about the devil's belief did not last long in the Vatican. In 1972 Pope Paul VI warned that the smoke of the devil had entered the Vatican.

Symptoms of Obsession

But how do Catholic exorcists want to know that a person is possessed by the devil? Padre Vincenzo, like Gabriele Amorth an exorcist of the Diocese of Rome, names the following characteristic signs that often appear during a liberation ritual: knowledge of foreign languages, clairvoyant or superhuman powers, allergic reaction to crucifixes and holy water. It goes without saying that he also sends people to see a psychiatrist or psychologist, emphasizes Vincenzo Taraborelli.

Since the reform of the exorcism ritual in 1999, Catholic exorcists have been encouraged to work with psychologists and psychiatrists. You should only exorcise when an illness or psychological problem has been ruled out. A point that is, however, controversial among the exorcists. Often it is only possible to fully clarify with an exorcism whether the devil is in a person, they argue.

The exorcist as a pastor

The 76-year-old exorcist Vincenzo Taraborelli receives 40 to 50 people every day not far from St. Peter's Basilica. However, only a few of them are actually possessed by the devil, he emphasizes: “Many people come to me and want to hear from me that they are possessed by the devil. They immediately request an exorcism and hope for a miracle. But I don't fall for that. "

Most people, according to Padre Vincenzo, are not obsessed but confused and desperate. He will then listen to them, pray with them and bring them back on the path of God. Most of the time he is nothing more than a pastor, says Padre Vincenzo. A pastor who does not have to take care of the leadership of a community like a priest, but has time to listen to the people.

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