The Italian Almanac

image of the beast

Italian News - February 18

Worried about the lure of the devil, a Vatican-linked university launched its latest course yesterday: a class on satanism, black magic and exorcism. The class for clergy and seminarians at Rome's pontifical academy, Regina Apostolorum, has arisen as a result of alarm about satanic practices among young people, especially in Italy, and is designed to help priests understand what makes people turn to the occult. The class is billed as the first of its kind, with wide-ranging instruction by exorcists, psychologists and a police criminologist.

The theologian Gabriele Nanni touched on the pitfalls of driving the devil from someone's body. Priests must never be proud of their ability, remembering that they are merely conduits of Christ, he said. They must not perform exorcisms on people they suspect have psychological problems. And they should not get carried away and invent mystical gestures.

The Vatican is concerned about a growing number of young people who develop personal forms of satanism, outside the sects which are closely monitored by police. They often learn about the devil through the Internet. "It's a more spontaneous and hidden phenomenon, a problem of loneliness and isolation, a problem of emptiness, that is fulfilled by the values of satanism," said another of the teachers, Carlo Climati, a specialist in youth culture and satanism.

The pontifical academy is run by the Legionaries of Christ, a conservative order, and teachers for the class include a number of exorcists and psychiatrists. In 1999, the Vatican issued its first new guidelines since 1614 for driving out devils, offering cautions to exorcists about taking psychiatric problems into account.