Archbishop Immanuel Milingo is the best-known exorcist in the Catholic Church today. Born in Zambia in 1930, he was ordained as a Catholic priest in 1958. In 1969, Pope Paul VI consecrated him as Bishop the youngest bishop of this century. He worked in Zambia until 1982 when he was called to the Vatican, where he is now a delegate to the Pontifical Council for Itinerants. Milingo’s work as an exorcist began gradually after his priestly ordination, but only in 1973 four years after his consecration did he became well-known, due to the instantaneous recovery of an apparently mentally ill woman whom he had prayed over. Milingo today often appears on Italian TV-talkshows or radio programs. Archbishop Milingo holds monthly healing-masses throughout Italy, in which he and his co-workers pray for people who claim to have problems with evil spirits. These masses attract an average of five thousand people. He is the author of ten books on the problem of Christian exorcism and healing, and various authors have written fifteen books about him.
Upon hearing the word "Exorcism", most people immediately think of the super-thriller from the seventies, The Exorcist, in which a poor little girl all of a sudden starts to say and do strange things and eventually kills a man. She has become possessed, and the film reveals the desperate battle to set her free a battle that involves several Catholic priests. The story has a positive ending, for the girl is freed, but before her delivery, she and all who see the film must undergo a violent show of demonic manifestations.
Most people are not aware that the film is based on a true story. The film originated from a novel, written by a young graduate of Georgetown University, William Peter Blatty, who had heard about an actual exorcism performed on a possessed child somewhere in the US in 1949. Through several channels he traced the priest who had led the group of priests actually performing the exorcism. He received the priest’s permission to study the exorcism diary that the priest kept. The key passages in the novel build on this diary; the rest is invented. The book has sold some thirteen million copies. Blatty was hired to write the screenplay for the film and received an Oscar for it. According to the Washington Post, The Exorcist earned more than two million dollars, which, considering inflation, ranks it thirteenth on the list of lucrative films. Two attempts were made to repeat the success, and an Exorcist II and an Exorcist III were produced and released.
Statistics indicate that satanic cults are growing in numbers, popularized by media, such as television and the Internet. Simultaneously, the Church continues in her mission to free people who appear to be afflicted with evil spirits. More books have been written by exorcists in the 1990’s than in any preceding decades. These publications reflect upon the history of the phenomenon of exorcism, on the actual operations of the exorcist and on how evil enters and disturbs the lives of individuals. Archbishop Milingo is someone who not only knows the theories of exorcism. He knows what it is like, to wrestle with demons.
Eminence, people call you the most significant exorcist in the Catholic Church today. How did you come to this ministry? How does one become an exorcist?
In my own case I did not become an exorcist all of a sudden. Before the Second Vatican Council in the 1960’s, in the Catholic tradition when becoming a priest one received minor orders. Among these was the consecration as an exorcist. In a way, one could say that any Catholic priest was an exorcist. Today it is different a bishop will give a particular chosen priest the authority to do the exorcism. Exorcism used to be part of the general priestly vocation; now the job of freeing our tormented brothers and sisters has become a particular work of officially appointed priests. In my case both as a priest and as a bishop I am already imbued with the power that Jesus gave to his twelve apostles when he said to them: "Go and preach the Gospel. Cast out devils and heal the sick. I give you power and authority over all demons and over all sorts of disease." In Rome there are three appointed exorcists who have received the special charism to do the work of an exorcist. I, being a bishop, am not part of this system. As a bishop this special appointment is not required.<
How did your apostolate begin? When did you become an exorcist?
My work as an exorcist began in Africa. I was moved by the fact that we had traditional exorcists in our own African communities. In my own mother tongue, the evil spirits are even called Malombo or Mashawe which means strange animals or strange beings, and these are related to a particular type of disease or possession known in many African languages. In my tradition, the society knew that these spirits could cause spiritual disorder in the community, even before the Christian period. They knew there was something in the community that could disturb.
So that is where you first knew about the influence of evil spirits?
Yes. I was moved by seeing that there were so many people who were forced to leave their homes and spend days, even months on end, just to be under the treatment of people who traditionally were called exorcists. I found it a shame for us as Christians that we were not able to help them. Jesus Christ has given us authority and power to take care of these problems. Luke nine recalls Jesus giving his apostles authority over all demons and at the same time over all sorts of diseases.
So you thought it was a shame for Christians, especially for you priests, that you were not able to do what the traditional African exorcists could?
Exactly. This is why I said to myself: Why don’t we put the gospel into practice? And so I gave it a try, and as a matter of fact I found out that it worked! Things simply started to happen.
So you received this healing ministry in Africa. You held big gatherings in which people recovered from various spiritual problems. In a book about you, it says that when you came to Italy you expected to find a civilized European country without problems of demonic origin and yet it proved that things were worse in Italy than in Africa. Is that true?
I have been in Italy now for fifteen years and I have become very surprised by the problems here. In Africa we have only one Church that shows similarities to Satanism the "Church of the Spirits" but here in Italy we have several official satanic sects. They are very strong and do nothing to hide their existence. Furthermore, these churches of Satan, are so established that they have a real hierarchy. There is "The Satanic group of the Antichrist". There is also the "Children of Satan" as well as the "Luciferans". There are probably many more than that, but these three groups are the ones we have come across in our work as exorcists.
So you have actually more work as an Exorcist now in Europe than you had in Africa?
Yes, you see it yourself; whenever I come home there are people waiting. It is the same when I arrive in the office in the morning. There is no time for repose. As soon as people learn that I am home, I find myself completely overwhelmed.
In Western society some hold the notion that Satanism is only a very elevated form of philosophy or self realisation. Satanists claim that Satanism is the most powerful way to achieve the goals of your ego, but that it is nothing dangerous or supernaturally evil.
I wish it would be nothing more than a philosophy where one goes around with big books and thinks. It is not a philosophy! Satanism is a becoming! One becomes a Satanist. One does not just think special thoughts one’s entire self changes when entering the satanic groups. In order to become a Satanist one has to pass through instructions, and after having received those instructions, one reaches a certain level. At this level the group or the satanic community grants acceptance to the candidate, passing him through different rituals.
So it is like a consecration?
Exactly. When one reaches a certain level, he has to exchange his blood with the one who represents Lucifer the priest or priestess and through that change of blood he actually sells his soul. He hands it over to Lucifer. It no longer belongs to God, but to Satan. This is very clear in the Satanic rituals, for just as we as Christians renounce Satan and his seductions, so in order to become a member of the Satanist sect the Satanist must renounce God, renounce Jesus, renounce the Mother of Jesus renounce even the communion of Saints! It is like an anti-creed. Total consecration of the Satanist’s being. This exchange of blood is for Satanists a kind of baptism, after which they drink either human blood or animal blood, but always blood. It is not just a little philosophy.
The gospel tells that the spirits are afraid of Jesus. Have you experienced this, too, in your ministry?
Yes. How I wish that there were more people who would believe that Jesus is the most powerful. Jesus is powerful, but in this particular moment he can work only through us and with us. Therefore it is so important for each of us as Christians to unite ourselves to Jesus in a very profound way. We have to be like the branch on the vine and do everything in the power of Jesus, not in our own power. If we are rooted in him and he in us, we share in the very authority of Jesus. Normal believers should not go around being afraid of evil spirits.
How do you perform the exorcisms? There appear to be many forms of exorcisms, and every exorcist uses his own method.
First, we have at this particular moment one exorcism prayer that I have found extremely powerful. It is a prayer, promulgated by Pope Leo XIII, directed to Saint Michael, the leader of the Heavenly Host. This prayer, which can be said by every believer, incorporates most of human needs in the defense against evil of every kind protection against diseases as well as against Satan and all satanic sects. Before the Second Vatican Council in the 1960’s this prayer was said after every Catholic mass. Secondly it is very important to use the authority of Jesus. When we exorcists pray, we say "In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, through the powerful intercession of the blessed Virgin Mary, of the angels and saints, in the blood of Jesus, evil spirits we cast you away!" We cast them away!
We use both fighting prayers as they come to us spontaneously, and then in certain cases we use the old Roman Ritual, which is in Latin. At certain moments there are resisting spirits. There are different hierarchies of evil spirits, just as there are different hierarchies of angels. Some of them go easily some really tell you "We are going away!"
So they speak!
Yes, they speak through the possessed person. I have experienced this many times. There are some spirits that resist more than others. The evil spirits from the higher hierarchies can not be sent away as easily as those from the lower hierarchies. One has to be patient, and in being patient one has to change the prayers one uses. We have alternatives. We can use the Roman Ritual. For those of us, who have great confidence in the Blessed Virgin Mary, we can implore her intercession and protection, for she is very powerful. We can say a decade of the Rosary. We can bless the possessed with Holy Water and then use the Cross. Once we have used all of these options, the Devil has to find a way to go out! Sometimes one has to repeat the exorcism one has to repeat the treatment.
Do several exorcists sometimes work together?
Yes, if there are multiple priests present, we work together, but only in mutual agreement we have to agree on one of the priests to be the leader. It is not good for each one to say his own words, even if each priest is an exorcist, because this disorder makes the session less direct. The devils do not know who is in charge. Even if we are five exorcists together, one must lead. The rest of us back him up with our prayers, and then we are able to cast the demons away.
What do the evil spirits do? They sometimes speak in different languages, and even with different voices?
Exactly, they do that. However, that does not bother us. Some of us pray in glossalia, or in tongues, so we are also able to puzzle them! We know the Holy Spirit directs us through the tongues and speaks to the devil, sending him away.
In most mental hospitals there are sick people who believe they are either Mary or Jesus. Some even think they are possessed. Do you think that there are many of these people who in reality are possessed?
No. I have had people who came to me saying they had evil spirits, and I had to say to them "If you were possessed, you wouldn’t approach me." In these cases there are no demons. I can’t send away devils where there are none. In most of these cases we speak of psychological obsessions or fixations. Part of my apostolate is to pray for such people for whom it is not clear whether the problem is of psychological or spiritual nature. For me it is therefore very important to be able to discern which problems are obsessions, which are fixations and which are actually possessions.
Would you imagine that certain people in mental hospitals actually have manifestations of evil, even though the doctors do not think so?
Yes. Very often when the problem is really from the Devil, it shows. The clearest sign of demonic possessions are sheer evilness and violence. It becomes clear through the faces of the possessed, through their cursing, and through their blaspheming.
But you have you never been called to a mental hospital to help drive out devils?
They haven’t called me yet!
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