Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

Community News Network

May 12, 2014

Catholic Church's best-known exorcist shows how it's done

ROME — The den of the Catholic Church's best-known exorcist is an unassuming place, a small third-floor room in a home for aging priests hidden in an obscure corner of southern Rome. I walk down the hospital-like hallway on my way to meet him, and the priest anticipates my knock before it happens. The door swings open, and there he is.

The Rev. Gabriele Amorth, 89, peers up with goldfish eyes through his Hubble-telescope glasses.

"Enter," says the diminutive priest.

I obey.

The room is stark, fitted out with a hospital bed and numerous images of Jesus and the Virgin Mary. Then there are the mementos, which Amorth began collecting after he was appointed as an exorcist back in the 1980s. He has conducted thousands of spiritual cleansings since then, keeping just a few of the bits and bobs he likes to call "the stuff that gets spewed from mouths." Nails. Keys. Chains. Plastic figurines.

"What seems to be spit turns out to be a nail," he said with a seen-it-all tone. "I don't give it much importance."

His services, though still in great demand, are not always needed. "Most times there's no actual diabolical presence, and my job lies in suggesting those that come to me to live a life of faith and prayer," he said. "And this is enough to assuage the fears of those afraid of the Devil's ills."

But other times, he said, "there really is a diabolical influence."

Twice, Amorth claims, he saw possessed victims levitate. "We try to keep the person in the armchair," he said, adding that demons "do it just to show off."

An hour later, he invites me and an Italian colleague to witness an exorcism ourselves.

His exorcism room is a retrofitted, white-tiled kitchen on the first floor of the residence decorated with more images of Jesus and Mary. Before launching into combat with the Beast, Amorth dons a black cassock and a purple sash and speaks a few words of consolation to the 40-something Neapolitan housewife before him. With her well-coiffed hair, sparkly sneakers and Bulgari sunglasses, the woman, who gave her name only as Antonella, seems perfectly normal at first.

That will change.

Unlike the speedy rituals shown in the movies, real exorcisms are more of a slow burn, often involving years of repeated rites before the big cleanse. Antonella, who drove up to Rome from Naples with her husband, Michele, for her latest exorcism, claims to have been possessed by multiple demons for the better part of 17 years.

Both she and Michele blame the affliction on a curse by a devil-worshiping, childless friend who they say envied Antonella's fecundity as a mother of two. They knew something was wrong, they said, when Antonella began throwing violent fits after receiving the Eucharist at Mass and going into trances in which she spoke Aramaic and German - languages she said she has never studied. It would typically take, three grown men to subdue her, the couple said.

After four years of exorcisms with Amorth, however, her fits have grown progressively less violent. She says she has begun to view the process as a long-term treatment of a terrible disease.

"But one of the soul," she said.

 After a round of praying, Amorth, aided by three assistants, finally launches his spiritual attack.

He begins chanting in Latin, commanding the presumed devils inside Antonella to reveal themselves. Several minutes pass before Antonella reacts. She begins choking, coughing up phlegm. She moans, and rocks back and forth. As if in pain, she demands that the chanting stop.

Amorth refuses, shouting: "Tell me your name!"

Antonella writhes in her seat, hissing "No! No!" She shakes her head, her eyes rolling to the back of her head. In an altered voice, she says, "I will not!"

"Tell me your name!" Amorth repeats, until finally she spits out a name: Asmodeus, a demon from scriptural lore.

"How many are you!" the priest demands, repeating the question as she grunts and shakes her head violently.

Finally, she responds defiantly: "We are five!"

Amorth begins making the sign of the cross on her forehead, prompting her to recoil. The chanting and blessings go on for several more minutes before Antonella calms down. Soon, she comes around as if from a dream. She opens her eyes and slumps in her chair.

After his bout with the demons, Amorth simply shrugs.

"That," he said, "was a light one."

 

1
Text Only
Community News Network
  • sleepchart.jpg America’s sleep-deprived cities

    Americans might run on sleep, but those living in the country's largest cities don't appear to run on much.

    August 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Who should pay for your kids ACT?

    Thirteen states paid for 11th-grade students in all public high schools to take the ACT college admission test this year, with several more planning to join them in 2015.

    August 20, 2014

  • Pets.jpg Why do people look like their pets?

    As much as we might quibble over the virtues and vices of Canis domesticus, however, and over whether human nature is any better or worse than dog nature, even dog fanciers don't usually want to look like a dog.

    August 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ice bucket challenge trending up

    Internet trends are a dime a dozen these days. Everything from Tebowing to planking to the cinnamon challenge can cause a wave of social media activity that can last for weeks before fizzling out.

    August 19, 2014

  • Africa goes medieval in its fight against Ebola

    As the Ebola epidemic claims new victims at an ever-increasing rate, African governments in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia have instituted a "cordon sanitaire," deploying troops to forcibly isolate the inhabitants in an area containing most of the cases.

    August 18, 2014

  • Democrat? Republican? There's an app for that

    If you're a Republican, you might want to think twice before buying Lipton Iced Tea, and forget about Starbucks coffee. If you're a Democrat, put down that Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, and throw away the cylinder of Quaker Oats in your pantry.

    August 18, 2014

  • Five myths about presidential vacations

    In the nuclear age, presidents may have only minutes to make a decision that could affect the entire world. They don't so much leave the White House as they take a miniature version of it with them wherever they go.

    August 15, 2014

  • Can 6 seconds launch a career? A generation of Vine stars sure hopes so.

    A year ago, Shawn Mendes filmed himself singing a tentative acoustic cover of the Justin Bieber song "As Long as You Love Me" and put the results on Vine. He wasn't expecting much response. "I didn't really want anything to happen; I just kind of wanted to see what people would think," says Mendes, 16. "I posted that first Vine and woke up the next morning with 10,000 followers. That was pretty cool."

    August 14, 2014

  • Freshman.jpg 8 crucial tips for college freshmen

    With school starting back up around the country, no one has a bigger deer-in-the-headlights look than college freshmen.

    August 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • A night in Ferguson

    For the past week in Ferguson, reporters have been using the McDonald's a few blocks from the scene of Michael Brown's shooting as a staging area. Demonstrations have blown up each night nearby.

    August 14, 2014

Featured Ads
AP Video
Johnson: Six Arrests, No Tear Gas in Ferguson Raw: Rescue, Relief Efforts at Japan Landslide Cadavers, a Teen, and a Medical School Dream Raw: Woman Escorted From Ferguson Protests California Drought Stings Honeybees, Beekeepers Officer Who Pointed Gun at Protesters Suspended Holder Hopes to Bring Calm to Ferguson Today in History August 21 Holder Pledges Top Investigators for Ferguson US Mission to Rescue Hostages in Syria Failed Manfred, Torre and MLB Take Ice Bucket Challenge Bank of America Reaches Record $17B Settlement Holder Reassures Ferguson Community With Visit GlobalPost CEO Remembers Foley As a Brave Man Seth Meyers Rolls Out Emmy Red Carpet Obama: World Is Appalled by Murder of Journalist Israel, Militants Trade Fire After Talks Fail Pres. George W. Bush Takes Ice Bucket Challenge Pierce Brosnan's Call to Join the Expendables Changes Coming to No-Fly List
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.