Pauline Father Gabriele Amorth performs an exorcism on Christina in the documentary The Devil and Father Amorth. CNS photo/LD Entertainment

God! He just beats the devil

  • December 15, 2022

Fr. Gabriele Amorth, SSP (1925-2016) was the chief exorcist of the Vatican and a member of the Society of St. Paul (one of the congregations founded by Blessed Fr. James Alberione). I had the privilege of interviewing Fr. Amorth in 2011, while filming a documentary on Fr. Alberione ( 

A professional videographer, Kevin, who had accompanied me on the trip to Italy, was a fanboy. Kevin asked me if we could film Fr. Amorth for another project he was working on. I told him I’d arrange it. 

First, I secured the appointment. Second, I secured a translator, because Father only spoke Italian. Sr. Angelina, a lovely older Italian Daughter of St. Paul who spoke flawless English, was recruited. However, as we got close to the time of our appointment with Fr. Amorth, Sr. Angelina came running towards us: “Are you going to ask him about the devil?!” (Um, what did she think we were going to talk to him about?) “I’m afraid of that devil stuff! No! No! I can’t!” She went running back in terror whence she came. 

A fine mess! I had a back-up polyglot SSP priest translator from India, but he was nowhere to be found, and time was a-wasting. Fr. Amorth was not known for tardiness, suffering fools or rescheduling. I told Kevin he was stuck with me and my horrendous Italian. 

Thankfully, Sr. Angelina had typed out all Kevin’s questions — in both Italian and English. We trotted off to Father’s office on the grounds of the Rome SSP Generalate where he was supposed to meet us. We were right on time. The office was locked. We peered in the windows. The office was in complete darkness. The sky began to cloud up and some crows began flying in a circle above us, cawing loudly. I looked at Kevin. It was just so… creepy. (The office is where exorcisms are performed.) 

On the verge of disappointment, Kevin said: “Let’s pray, and if God wants us to do this interview, He’ll find a way.” We said a quick prayer. “Let’s try his residence,” I suggested.

We rang the bell to the three-storey priests’ house. “Pronto!” A nun’s voice came through the intercom. I tried to answer her, but she couldn’t hear me. I rang again. “Pronto!” I spoke louder. Niente. On my third attempt, this woman was really agitated. “PRONTO!!!” The Sister Disciples of the Divine Master take excellent care of our priests — but you don’t want to get them agitated if you want access to an SSP. If it’s time for Father’s meal or nap? You are not going to see him, no how, no way. 

Suddenly, the locked ground floor magically opened. We hadn’t heard any buzzes or clicks. We faced a three-storey stairway — no elevator in sight. Kevin and I jogged as fast as we could up the stairs with all our camera equipment. Who was waiting at the top — hands on hips, scowl on face — blocking the open door to the priests’ living quarters? The intercom Matron Sorella! Thankfully, Fr. Amorth was behind her. 

I huffed and puffed: “Intervista…con…Padre Amorth?” Sorella Bella said she was not informed of any such interview. I could see remembrance dawning on Fr. Amorth’s face. He quickly shuffled to the door. “I forgot,” he told the nun and motioned for us to follow. 

Once settled, he said he had only 20 minutes: make it snappy. I slowly read the first question in my Italiano primitivo. “Io sono sorda!” shouted Fr. Amorth and whisked the paper out of my hands. He locked eyes on the camera and read out each question, answering it immediately, unfalteringly and succinctly. 

Kevin had researched questions Father had answered in prior interviews. He wanted to pose new questions. The one I remember most was this: “How can parents teach their kids about Satan without scaring them?”

Father smiled brightly: “It’s simple! Teach your children about God! Then tell them about the devil. Tell your children that in life, they will have a choice to make that not even you, their parents, can make for them. They must choose whether they want to spend eternity with God who loves them, or Satan who doesn’t.”

And Fr. Amorth merrily moved on to the next question.

(Sr. Helena Raphael Burns, fsp, is a Daughter of St. Paul. She holds a Masters in Media Literacy Education and studied screenwriting at UCLA. Twitter: @srhelenaburns)

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