By Antonio Gaspari
ROME, APRIL 23 2010 (Zenit.org).- Father Gabriele Amorth is considered the most expert exorcist in the world, having performed this duty for more than 25 years and 70,000 exorcisms.
Marco Tosatti, previously the Vatican expert for the newspaper La Stampa, and author of innumerable books, interviewed Father Amorth. The fruit of their conversation is “Memorie di un Esorcista” (Memoirs of an Exorcist).
The book is a sort of spiritual testament, in which Father Amorth recounts the struggle against the Evil One: an impressive series of stories that attest to the presence and influence of evil, but also deliverance from it, as Tosatti explained to ZENIT.
ZENIT: What is an exorcist and, in particular, who is Father Amorth?
Tosatti: An exorcist is a priest who has received from his bishop — the only one authorized to carry out this type of intervention — the authorization to liberate persons affected by demonic phenomena, such as infestation, vexation and possession. Gabriele Amorth is the honorary president of the association of exorcists founded by him many years ago, and probably the most well known exorcist in the world. In April he will celebrate his 85th birthday and he continues with his battle.
ZENIT: Does the devil really exist?
Tosatti: Christians cannot fail to believe that a pure spirit exists who has rejected God, and who acts in an ordinary and extraordinary way — very rare — in the world.
ZENIT: Who is he and what does he do? How does he manifest himself and in what way do exorcists distinguish his influence on persons?
Tosatti: He is a fallen angel, at the head of other beings similar to him. In his ordinary action he tries to drive people to sin, to conquer their souls. His extraordinary action is certainly more mysterious. With God’s permission, he carries out actions against persons, succeeding, in some cases, in possession — which, however, cannot touch the soul. With the prayers of the ritual and the use of sacraments, exorcists try to liberate victims from this negative action.
ZENIT: Why has the Church instituted the figure of the exorcist?
Tosatti: Jesus Christ gave the mandate to his disciples to preach the Gospel, to cure the sick and to cast out demons. During several centuries the figure of the exorcist did not exist in Christianity: every Christian could be a soldier in this battle. And even today simple Christians can say, and do say, prayers of deliverance. And some saints — Padre Pio, for example — without being exorcists, delivered victims from demonic influence. It must be said that in the last years, evidently in response to a growing need, increasingly bishops are obliged to appoint priests for this type of pastoral work.
ZENIT: How much is there of suggestion and how much of truth in many persons who believe they are possessed by the devil?
Tosatti: From what has been said to me in my research, the real cases of possession, vexation or infestation are very, very rare. Gabriele Amorth — and I believe his colleagues also act in this way — does not receive anyone who has not first sought help from official medicine. And despite this precaution, he sees that in many cases an evil origin is not identified with the disturbances. But, although rare, cases of demonic influence exist, and they are frightening.
ZENIT: In what way can men escape from temptations to sin and evil?
Tosatti: To flee from the attack of temptations, I believe, is impossible. A clean and Christian life can help us not to yield to those temptations.
ZENIT: The devil has always beset the Church. Pope Paul VI once said: “the smoke of Satan has entered the Church.” John Paul II and Benedict XVI several times denounced the presence of the devil’s tail in many actions that attack the Chair of Peter. In these days we are witnessing an unprecedented attack against the present Pontiff. What is your opinion?
Tosatti: Benedict XVI, as John Paul II before him, indicated the central battle of the Church in our times in the moral topics and the defense of life and of the family. It is a battle against the prevailing culture in a great part of the Western world, and above all in the media. The attempt to discredit the Church and the Pope precisely to weaken the impact of his teaching is evident. Also in an evidently instrumental and incorrect way, trusting in the negative effect of the attack on public opinion — which often does not have the instruments or the time to carefully verify the veracity of the accusations.
And this is all the more extraordinary inasmuch as if there ever was some one who seeks — who has always sought — to cleanse the Church, it is precisely Joseph Ratzinger.
I think that, unfortunately, our profession is not living one of its happiest moments.[Translation by ZENIT]
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On the Net:
Memorie di un Esorcista (in Italian only): www.itacalibri.it/Template/detailArticoli.asp?LN=IT&IDFolder=144&IDOggetto=36906