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Prominent Roman Catholic exorcist Father Gabriele Amorth died aged 91 after a protracted illness, the Vatican has confirmed. The author of several books on exorcism performed devil-chasing rites for three decades.
Father Gabriele Amorth's publisher, the San Paolo Group, said Saturday the Italian priest died on Friday at the Santa Lucia Foundation clinic in Rome. He had been admitted in the rehabilitation center some weeks ago "for lung problems."
The Foundation said Amorth had suffered from various respiratory and circulatory complications.
The priest made headlines over the years for suggesting that Stalin, Hitler and the "Islamic State" (IS) jihadis were possessed by the devil. He also condemned yoga, eastern spirituality, the Harry Porter books and movies and television as satanic.
"If one thinks of what was committed by people like Stalin or Hitler, certainly they were possessed by the devil. This is seen in their actions, in their behavior and in the horrors they committed," Amorth told Vatican Radio in 2006.
'The Last Exorcist'
Last year in April, he wrote on his Facebook page, L'ultimo esorcista, that IS was Satan. "As a Christian, I fight the beast spiritually. Politicians, who today seem to have no response to the massacre of Christians, will also have to fight ISIS and it will do it in a different way."
As for the fictional character Harry Potter, the late priest had this to say: "People think it is just a children's book, but it leads to magic, and therefore to evil."
Amorth was also against homosexuality. Three years ago, he told Italy's Radio 24 that anyone who acted against "the law of God" were "not necessarily possessed, but are acting under the guidance of the devil."
'Nazis were also possessed'
Born in the northern Italian city of Modena in 1925, Father Amorth fought against the Fascists during World War II.
"I am convinced that the Nazis were all possessed by the devil," he said in an interview, arguing that the devil could posses groups of people.
The late priest was ordained in 1951 but did not become an exorcist until the mid-1980s.
In 1990, Amorth founded the International Association of Exorcists, which he led until 2000. In 2014, the Vatican officially recognized the association.
Amorth reportedly conducted over 70,000 exorcisms during his career.
Exorcism received more attention in the Catholic Church during John Paul II's papacy.
shs/sms (AP, dpa)