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ROME (ChurchMilitant.com) - Father Gabriele Amorth, chief exorcist of Rome, has died. After struggling with illness for several days in the hospital of Santa Lucia in Rome, the influential priest passed away Friday.
Ordained a priest in 1954, he was officially appointed exorcist for the diocese of Rome in 1986, training under Fr. Candido Amantini. In 1990, Amorth founded the International Association of Exorcists and remained president until he retired in 2000.
Amorth claimed he had exorcised more than 70,000 individuals over the course of his lifetime, although he clarified that cases of genuine demonic possession are rare.
Speaking of Satan, he once said, "The devil is not everywhere, but when he is present it is painful."
"The devil is pure spirit, invincible," he explained. "He is shown with the painful blasphemies coming from the person which he possesses. He can stay hidden. He can speak different languages. He can transform himself."
And in a moment of frankness, he once admitted, "The devil resides in the Vatican," citing as proof cardinals and bishops who have lost the Faith as well as prelates who covered up sex abuse.
An outspoken advocate of the ministry of exorcism, he fully supported the Vatican's decision to have every diocese in the world appoint an exorcist. In Amorth's own lifetime, he saw the number of exorcists grow in Italy in the 1980s from only 20 to now more than 300, with a corresponding spike in demand for exorcisms. And here in the United States, the number of exorcists has grown from only a dozen total a decade ago to nearly 200 — one in each diocese.
Speaking of the rise in demand for exorcisms, Fr. Amorth commented, "People have lost the Faith, and superstition, magic, Satanism or ouija boards have taken its place, which then open all the doors to the presence of demons."
"The Devil is gaining ground," he warned elsewhere. "We are living in an age when faith is diminishing. If you abandon God, the Devil will take his place."
Father Amorth left his spiritual testament in a book-length interview last year, in which he offered his final reflections of his life and ministry. "If there is one sure way to remove us from the devil's influence," he commented, "it is by letting ourselves be attracted by the goodness and beauty that emanate from the good and from our God and Father."
"[T]he deeper reason that prevents communion with God is, again and again, the fear of God; fear that keeps us from feeling loved as a child," he explained. Satan's lie is that "God does not love you," which he called "the worst of evils."
The solution to spiritual ills, according to the exorcist, is what they have always been: prayer and the sacraments. They are "humility, faith, prayer (the Rosary), frequenting the sacraments (Mass, the sacrament of reconciliation), living a Christian life in conformity with the Gospel, doing works of charity and forgiving our enemies," he explained.
Once asked whether he was afraid of the devil, Fr. Amorth replied, "None of this scares me. I know that God is using me for this work."
Father Amorth was 91 years old when he passed away. He had been a priest for 62 years.