Mt. Vernon Register-News

Features

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
Features
  • Sunburn isn't the only sign of summer that can leave you itchy and blistered

    You've got a rash. You quickly rule out the usual suspects: You haven't been gardening or hiking or even picnicking, so it's probably not a plant irritant such as poison ivy or wild parsnip; likewise, it's probably not chiggers or ticks carrying Lyme disease; and you haven't been swimming in a pond, which can harbor the parasite that causes swimmer's itch.

    July 30, 2014

  • 20140729-AMX-GIVHAN292.jpg Spanx stretches into new territory with jeans, but promised magic is elusive

    The Spanx empire of stomach-flattening, thigh-slimming, jiggle-reducing foundation garments has expanded to include what the brand promises is the mother of all body-shaping miracles: Spanx jeans.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 2.21.22 PM.png VIDEO: Dog 'faints' from excitement of seeing owner

    A reunion between a Pennsylvania woman who had been living overseas for two years and her pet schnauzer has gone viral, garnering nearly 20 million views on YouTube.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • cleaning supplies Don't judge mothers with messy homes

    I was building shelves in my garage when a neighbor girl, one of my 4-year-old daughter's friends, approached me and said, "I just saw in your house. It's pretty dirty. Norah's mommy needs to clean more."

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Has the ipad lost its swag?

      The company reported this week that sales of its sleek, pricey tablet were down 19 percent from last quarter and 9 percent year-over-year. CEO Tim Cook tried to reassure investors that Apple's new partnership with IBM to sell its devices to IBM's corporate customers will help make iPads ubiquitous in the workplace. "This isn't something that worries us," he said of the iPad sales decline. But the numbers are disappointing no matter how you spin them.

    July 24, 2014

  • Darth Vader is polling higher than all potential 2016 presidential candidates

    On the other hand, with a net favorability of -8, Jar Jar is considerably more popular than the U.S. Congress, which currently enjoys a net favorability rating of -65.

    July 23, 2014

  • Hospitals let patients schedule ER visits

    Three times within a week, 34-year-old Michael Granillo went to the emergency room at Northridge Hospital Medical Center in Los Angeles because of intense back pain. Each time, Granillo, who didn't have insurance, stayed for less than an hour before leaving without being seen by a doctor.

    July 22, 2014

  • Wal-Mart to cut prices more aggressively in back-to-school push

    Wal-Mart Stores plans to cut prices more aggressively during this year's back-to-school season and will add inventory to its online store as the chain battles retailers for student spending.

    July 21, 2014

  • Your chocolate addiction is only going to get more expensive

    For nearly two years, cocoa prices have been on the rise. Finally, that's affecting the price you pay for a bar of chocolate - and there's reason to believe it's only the beginning.

    July 18, 2014

  • web_starbucks-cof_big_ce.jpg Starbucks sees more Apple-like stores after Colombia debut

    This week Starbucks opened its first location in Colombia — a 2,700-square-foot store with a heated patio, concrete columns, mirrors on the ceiling and walls of colorful plants.

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

Twitter Updates
Facebook
Stocks