Thursday, October 23, 2008


Fr José Antonio Fortea is one of five exorcists in Spain and one of only two recognised by the Vatican in this country. He is in the news now because he has just published a book – “Memorias de un exorcista” which I think translates easy enough.

According to the good father Galicia is the region in Spain that has the most cases of exorcism. He explains this by saying it is “because the magic is very widespread”. In contrast Castilla and Valencia is a bit boring for a person in his line of work as the majority of people practice their religion, presumably Catholicism, and hence cases of old Nick possessing folk are rather thin on the ground. Indeed they have the least exorcisms in Spain.

Fr Fortea was taught his profession by Fr Gabriele Amorth of the Diocese of Rome. It was Amorth’s theory that both Hitler and Stalin were possessed. However Fortea observed: “I do not think that there are only politicians or people in public life who are possessed. Possession is an extraordinary phenomenon that doesn’t have to be reflected in the moral life of the person.”

The symptoms of the “clients” of Fr Fortea are a change of voice, convulsions, trances, blasphemous cries, the use of languages the person was not known to have and an aversion to sacred things.

In my life I have certainly ticked off some of those but I think the cause was another type of evil spirit. Whisky.

The treatment for a possessed person varies and includes the ordering of the demon to leave the person. The sessions can last between half an hour and three hours and in some cases the victim cannot be cured in a single visit so the treatment can last months.

Fr Fortea has been an exorcist for 15 years but doesn’t know how many people he has treated because he says he doesn’t keep count. “Memorias de un exorcista” is based on his diary and experiences since his ordination. He is now preparing a further theological book on the spiritual aspects of exorcism.

I must admit to finding this subject fascinating especially as in all my long years, including those as a practicing Catholic, I have never heard of a case of exorcism or possession. Then perhaps if you have been possessed by a demon you keep quite about it.

What it does do is reinforce my strong belief in a spiritual element in our lives that with many other examples cannot be explained away as mere mumbo jumbo.

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