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 CNS Story:

EXORCISM-AMORTH Aug-29-2006 (390 words) With photo. xxxi

Exorcist says demonic influence is strong in today's world

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- An Italian exorcist said demonic influence is strong in today's world, affecting individuals and sometimes entire societies.

While it is very rare for a person to be possessed by a demon, history reveals some likely examples -- including Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, said Pauline Father Gabriele Amorth.

Father Amorth, who works as an exorcist in the Diocese of Rome, made the comments in an interview with Vatican Radio Aug. 27.

Father Amorth said every culture in history has shown an awareness of the existence of evil spirits. With the Bible, he said, these spirits were identified as rebellious angels who "tempt man to evil out of hatred for God."

"The devil can possess not only individuals but also entire groups and populations. For example, I am convinced that the Nazis were all possessed by the devil," he said.

"If one thinks of what was committed by people like Stalin or Hitler, certainly they were possessed by the devil. This is seen in their actions, in their behavior and in the horrors they committed," he said.

"Therefore, society also needs to be defended against the devil," he said.

Father Amorth said he thought one reason why the devil's influence was high today is that Christian faith has weakened, replaced in many cases by superstition and an interest in the occult, which he said "open the way to demonic influences."

He said the church teaches that the devil is a pure spirit; he is not seen, but his effects can be seen, he said.

Exorcism, he said, is a prayer made in the name of the church to liberate people stricken by the devil or by his evil influences.

Father Amorth gained notoriety in 2000 when he revealed that Pope John Paul II had performed an impromptu exorcism on a young woman who flew into an apparent rage at the end of a general audience at the Vatican.

In 1999, the Vatican issued a revised Rite of Exorcism, cautioning that cases of actual possession by devils were probably very rare. The church also has emphasized that before an exorcism is performed, it is important to make certain one is dealing with the devil and not a psychological or other illness.

END


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