Don Gabriele Amorth is the busiest exorcist in Europe. His job is to keep the Roman Pontiff free of demons. This is because, says the priest, the devil is abroad in the Vatican. SPIEGEL Author Alexander Smoltczyk has visited the priest - and to test out any demons.
Rome - Everything goes wrong today. First, the Roman taxi drivers strike without any warning. Even the address specified cannot be found on the map plan of the city. Then the photographer calls and says that his camera had not charged. He must dismantle and repair it. All seems jinxed. "You are an hour late," is the first sentence of Father Gabriele Amorth. He smiles.
Don Gabriele is the Chief Exorcist of the Diocese of Rome and hence the caster out of devils responsible to the Bishop of Rome, Pope Benedict XVI. The 82-year-old priest is in a cassock with 33 buttons. He is almost bald, the double chin hangs down, a little like a Basset. For Father Amorth, the devil is not a metaphor but daily practice, office hours being from 9 to 16.30. "I am the only Exorcist, seven days a week, from morning until the afternoon, including Christmas Eve and Easter. I have in 21 years performed more than 70,000 exorcisms. Even when I was younger, I managed an average of fifteen, sixteen exorcisms a day. Now, I have slowed down a little."
The private practice of exorcist looks like a kitchen. It is half tiled, with a sink, a small altar, and in the middle a table on which can be found a plastic cup and a bottle of mineral water (of the San Benedetto brand). On the walls are pictures of St Padre Pio, Pope John Paul II and Amorth’s teacher Don Candido Amantini. There is nothing which can be called uncanny, no smell of sulphur, no incense burners or benches.
Amorth is not a nut-case. In addition to theology, he also has a law degree. His books are translated into 21 languages, including into Japanese. The Father is an authority in the field of Mariology, theology relating to the Mother of God. Amorth in 1990 founded the International Society of Exorcists, "whose honorary president he remains today. "We were," he says, "nine exorcists here in Rome. One is sick, one has been promoted and moved." Within the Vatican walls, a Padre Davide was working, but had to abandon his work. This was on grounds not because there was nothing to do within the Church.
On the contrary: "The devil is acting in Fatima, in Lourdes, everywhere. And he is certainly in the Vatican, the center of Christianity." Father Amorth does not mean that the black danger is the convention of the Jesuits who have been since yesterday, Monday, meeting in Rome to elect their new General, the "Black Pope". No: "In the Vatican, there are satanic cults. They are everywhere. One does not see them. But they are there."
Even Mother Teresa was exorcised.
He recalls the case of Tommaso Stenico, a priest working in the Curia who,
"There are saints that are even on their deathbed specifically attacked by demons. During their life they could defend themselves, but at the end of life the devil uses their weakness." That would mean that even he himself, Don Gabriele Amorth, is not immune to the devil? "Of course not. Cardinal Poletti said to me, when he appointed me to the rank of exorcist, that the Madonna had recommended me. The devil has often told me that I am too well protected for him to anything exceptional. Everyday temptations remain."
And the Holy Father ...? "Theoretically, a pope can be possessed. Nevertheless, the Holy Father can rely on a formation of protective angels. Alexander VI himself, who can be viewed as the worst of all popes, surrendered himself to the Virgin Mary, and made most of his mistakes before his appointment. As Pope, he was largely correct. But, in theory, it is possible. If Saints can be possessed, then also the Holy Father can be."
He has been assisting, said Amorth, for the past few years, two demon possessed nuns who dedicated their lives to the conversion of sinners : "God has given them the possession as a sort of atonement." An exorcism does not always mean the possession ends: "But a quasi-liberation is obtained. The suffering diminishes. Again, you can pray, you can go to church, confess, go to Communion in an unremarkable way."
The German Pope is incidentally quite receptive to his profession, says the Exorcist: "As president of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger played a key role in the new catechism. Several times I have spoken with him and he has greatly encouraged me during audiences. Nevertheless, I do not believe that he has ever performed an exorcism, unlike Wojtyla. " At the conclusion of the visit, "Oops! - Et orbi" was tested as to whether he was possessed by any demons or devils. The result was negative. The possession lies clearly below the detection limit.