Putting Faith to the Test

"The feeling of freedom that I get is a spiritual feeling. The fear goes away, the insecurity goes away, the pain goes away and I'm filled with hope."

Traci, who now works as a landscaper, said she got her life back through the efforts of exorcists who held -- and imparted -- an unshakable faith.

Across the Atlantic in Italy, the Rev. Giancarlo Gramolazzo, an exorcist, said it is faith that saves you.

"Even in the exorcisms fighting the devil, it is faith that makes it work, he said. "It is faith that makes sure that it is not the priest that is working but Christ."

Gramolazzo has 30 years of experience performing exorcisms in Italy, a country where 88 percent of the population is Catholic and exorcisms are performed every day.

Pointing to a crucifix, he explained, "It is he who is exorcising, not me. I loan my body. Jesus is the first exorcist. It is the Lord in the first person who showed us that he wins against evil."

Exorcism has deep roots in the Catholic tradition, and is performed by priests who are given special license by their bishops. Twenty years ago, Italy had about 20 official exorcists, but today there are an estimated 300. The number of those approved to perform the exorcism rites has grown with demand.

Gramolazzo is one of those approved to perform the rites.

"We exorcists felt the need to come together to exchange our various experiences and to have a common vision of how to carry out exorcisms."

'The Devil Does Not Have a Nationality'

Gramolazzo heads the International Association of Exorcists.

"An important thing we discovered," he said, "is that the devil acts in Italy, in France, in the U.S., in Mexico, in Japan, in the same way. If I go and exorcise someone in Japan it is the same devil I exorcise here. … The devil does not have a nationality."

Tracy Wilkinson, the Los Angeles Times bureau chief in Rome, spent years researching exorcism in Italy for her book "The Vatican's Exorcists." She was even allowed to witness an official exorcism performed by Roman Catholic priests.

According to Wilkinson, it does require belief and it requires faith on a very core level.

"The hierarchy of the church is ambivalent about the phenomenon of exorcism," Wilkinson said. "They recognize it can be so easily distorted and sensationalized and abused, many priests are skeptical about demonic possession. … And yet, I found quite a few academics and psychiatrists who allowed for the concept of demonic possession -- one who had even sent his patient, he couldn't figure out what to do with her, he sent her to an exorcist."

Staunch supporters claim that to believe in exorcism is to have a faith complete enough to acknowledge the existence of Satan, whose legions of devils can inhabit bodies and possess souls.

Paulist Productions traveled to Rome to interview perhaps the most famous exorcist of our time, the Rev. Gabriele Amorth.

"For our Christian faith, it's very, very important to realize that Satan exists," he said. "Go forth, preach the Gospel, throw out the devils and heal the sick -- those are the commands Jesus gave to the apostles."

60,000 Exorcisms and Counting

In a rare interview Amorth explained how he has performed more than 60,000 exorcisms in his lifetime. He believes that Satan exists, and does so to challenge humankind.

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