Rev. Gabriele Amorth, a prominent Roman Catholic exorcist, has died at the age of 91 after a long illness.
Santa Lucia Foundation, a Rome rehabilitation centre, said Father Amorth died on Sept. 16 in another Rome hospital where he was recently transferred after his health worsened. Foundation officials said he had suffered from various respiratory and circulatory problems.
Exorcism in the Catholic Church received more attention after Pope John Paul II repeatedly sought to convince skeptics the devil was very much active in the world. During his papacy, the Vatican issued guidelines for driving out devils and stressed the power of evil.
Father Amorth, who began serving as an exorcist for the Rome diocese in 1986, published several books exploring the theme of good and evil. The books include Get Behind Me, Satan!, Stronger Than Evil, and God More Handsome Than Evil, which is described by his publishing house as his "spiritual testament."
The Italian news agency ANSA said a few months ago that Father Amorth lamented in comments that many people – priests and laypersons – described themselves as his close collaborators. He said that wasn't true, adding that his closest aides were very few and "live with extreme reserve and discretion."
ANSA said Father Amorth had said he found himself faced with true demonic possession at most 100 times, although the diocese received far greater numbers of requests for exorcisms.
In a 2006 interview with Vatican Radio, Father Amorth said that "exorcism is something which you believe in because deeds happen that reason cannot explain," but which teaching in the Bible can help understand.
He described evil spirits as "angels, created as good by God, who rebelled, and due to hatred of God they tempt man toward evil."
Father Amorth said in that interview that the devil can possess groups of people, not just individuals.
"For example, I am convinced that the Nazis were all possessed by the devil. If you think about what types like Stalin, Hitler did … certainly they were possessed by the devil," he said.