.- A priest in Florence is being investigated for fraud after allegedly earning millions by performing fake exorcisms, the Telegraph reports.
Prosecutors alleged that Father Francesco Saverio Bazzoffi would “stage shows” before crowds of more than 400 people at the House of the Sainted Archangels, an organization he founded.
According to prosecutors, the priest’s associates would “pretend to be possessed by demons” and Father Bazzoffi would allegedly exorcise them using obscure rites.
The priest would then offer to heal members of the audience who were sick and solicit donations to his organization.
“During Mass, the priest spoke in Aramaic, and strange things happened. I do not know if it was group hysteria or our suggestibility, but I remember one old woman screaming in a man's voice while five big guys held her down,” one witness told police, according to the Telegraph.snip
“I would like to make clear the following: any sort of special rite of benediction, such as the laying on of hands, is forbidden. Exorcisms are also prohibited,” the cardinal wrote in his letter. A priest must be authorized by the diocese to carry out an exorcism.
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Most interesting. My novel The Defilers deals with exorcism, and whether demonic oppression is real.
But in the past few decades, the devil has returned. As the late John Paul II said, "Anyone who does not believe in the devil does not believe in the gospels."
His successor, Pope Benedict XVI, exhorts the faithful to take Satan seriously, praises his team of exorcists, offers university courses in exorcism and calls for more exorcists around the world.
One Vatican City priest told his congregation on Ash Wednesday: "How could a person know anything about Satan if he has never encountered the reality of Satan but only the idea of Satan? ... It is like someone who brags about not being afraid of lions and proves this by pointing out that he has seen many paintings of lions and was never frightened of them."
Only 37 per cent of Canadians believe in the devil, but twice that number of Americans do. Well over half of Latin Americans and African also believe in Satan and 80 per cent of Pentecostal Christians in those regions say angels and demons are active in the world.
Green has an interview with the archdiocese's retired exorcist here:
Ottawa's Catholic archbishop has appointed at least two new exorcists, one each for the English and French communities, replacing the region's last exorcist who retired five years ago.
The archdiocese will not name the priests, or say how many exorcists there are for fear of a flood of phone calls. Msgr. Kevin Beach says all the men are experienced clergy with overseas experience, some in areas of the world where belief in demons is more robust than it is in North America.
He said it wasn't easy to find men with the right qualifications, nor was it easy to persuade them to take the duties.
"I think they had to give prayerful consideration. If they are looking for the job, that's not the person you want."
They all have other duties as well as their new roles.
The archdiocese doesn't receive any more than seven or eight calls a year. Nor are the callers any more likely to be possessed -- in the past 15 years, Ottawa clergy say they have had only one case of demonic possession.
But exorcism has always been part of the Catholic ministry, even if it has fallen by the wayside in the last generation.
Q: How do you separate what is human evil and what is demonic? I might be tempted to cheat on my taxes. Is that demonic temptation?
A: That's human nature. But the enemy might use it to get us in deeper. He may get you to lie about the reality of your situation. The devil is deceit. So it can (start) as something that is human but can be led in the wrong direction.
There was a young fellow who came for counselling. He was having difficulty controlling himself and his actions. One day he said to me, "I have a feeling of rage. I hear in my mind, the voice says, 'Kill.' I haven't done it yet, but there is that compulsion."
I started asking about the video games he had played as a child and they were full of violence. So it's not surprising to me we have these shooting incidents in high schools.
Q: Are they the work of the devil?Green also blogs about how she came across this story.
A: I have to take it from the point of view that the devil is against mankind. There is no doubt about it - he wants to ruin everybody. He doesn't just have a few favourites that he works on. He tries to get his hoof in wherever he can.
Just two days before the story was to appear, I met Ottawa's former exorcist, a gentle, elderly man with shaking hands. We read a passage of scripture and said a prayer before the interview, and he anointed me with holy oil afterwards. He prayed that I would find my way to the truth, which is as good a journalist's prayer as I have ever heard.
I found myself relaxing utterly in the prayers, and the anointing, although I joked to friends later that he was probably trying to see if the oil made me sizzle and smoke, a gutter dog of the press.
In the final drafts, my editors looked at me funny and struggled to find a tactful way to ask, ‘do you really believe this stuff?' They settled on, ‘who are you readers here? People who believe this stuff?'
By the end of the day, I shook my head with a smile and shrugged. ‘I'm laughing at this stuff," I told them, "but not very hard."
Why trouble trouble? I think I'll tiptoe away.