Friday 21 October 2016

Priest who faced down the Devil in exorcisms dies aged 91

Nick Squires

Published 20/09/2016 | 02:30

Father Gabriele Amorth, who claimed to have carried out as many as 70,000 exorcisms.
Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Father Gabriele Amorth, who claimed to have carried out as many as 70,000 exorcisms. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

A charismatic Catholic priest who became the world's best-known exorcist has died at the age of 91.

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Father Gabriele Amorth was the chief exorcist for the diocese of Rome and wrote several books about the dark art of casting out demons.

He died overnight in a Rome hospital after suffering from a pulmonary illness.

Father Amorth claimed to have performed tens of thousands of exorcisms during his career and sometimes embarrassed the Vatican with his more outlandish claims.

He maintained that people who are possessed by Satan vomit shards of glass and pieces of iron. Both Hitler and Stalin were possessed by the Devil, he insisted.

He claimed that yoga is "evil" because it leads to a worship of Hinduism and other Eastern religions and that the 'Harry Potter' books encourage children to believe in black magic and wizardry.

His many books included 'The Last Exorcist - My Fight Against Satan'.

During the papacy of Benedict XVI, Father Amorth said that the sex-abuse scandals which engulfed the church in Ireland, the US, Australia and other countries were proof that the Antichrist was waging a war against the Holy See.

"The Devil resides in the Vatican and you can see the consequences," he said. "He can remain hidden, speak in different languages, or even appear to be sympathetic. At times, he makes fun of me. But I'm a man who is happy in his work."

In a rare insight into the world of exorcism, he told 'La Repubblica' newspaper that the 1973 film 'The Exorcist' gave a "substantially exact" impression of what it was like to be possessed by the Devil.

People possessed by evil sometimes had to be physically restrained by half a dozen people while they were exorcised. They would scream, utter blasphemies and spit out sharp objects, he said.

"From their mouths, anything can come out - pieces of iron as long as a finger, but also rose petals," said Father Amorth, who claimed to have performed 70,000 exorcisms.

"When the possessed dribble and slobber and need cleaning up, I do that too. Seeing people vomit doesn't bother me. The exorcist has one principal duty; to free human beings from the fear of the Devil."

The attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II by a Turkish gunman in 1981 was also the work of the Devil, said Father Amorth.

Last year, he said that the Isil terrorist group was under the sway of demonic influence.

"Isil is Satan. Things first happen in the spiritual realms, then they are made concrete on this earth," he said.

Father Amorth was appointed the exorcist for the diocese of Rome in 1985.

In the early 1990s, he set up the International Association of Exorcists, which gained the endorsement of Pope Francis.

"As a Christian, I fight the beast spiritually," he once said, adding: "Biblically speaking, we are in the last days and the beast is working furiously."

Hours after his death, Father Jose Antonio Fortea, a Spanish theologian who knew Father Amorth, told the Catholic News Agency: "Now he rests from his many battles with the devil." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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