- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 8, 2005

LONDON — A Vatican university is to offer the first official qualification in Satanism for Roman Catholic priests in an effort to counter what it calls “a worrying increase in interest in the occult.”

The school of theology at Regina Apostolorum, one of Rome’s most prestigious pontifical universities, has devised a two-month course including how to carry out an exorcism, in response to warnings that a half-million Italians have had contact with satanic sects.

The first series of four-hour lectures, to start next month, will cover the anthropological, theological and liturgical aspects of Satanism, and will include instruction by an exorcist within the Roman Catholic Church.

Carlo Climati, a teacher on the course, said: “In the past few years, there has been a lot of interest in Satanism, and it develops because of the media. It’s not that the devil is in the media, rock-and-roll or the Internet, but that it can be damaging when used the wrong way.

“For young people, interest in Satanism can start with a CD, then move on to the Internet. From there, it sometimes develops into seemingly harmless things like going to cemeteries, but sometimes can lead to murders.”

At least 100 priests and advanced students of theology have expressed interest in the diploma course, which will cost about $250.

A recent resurgence of interest in Satanism has been fueled by films such as “Exorcist: The Beginning,” released last year. A research institute, Eurispes, has cataloged 650 satanic organizations in Italy, many around Milan and Rome.

Italians were shocked by a recent slayings case, in which two teenage heavy-metal musicians were purportedly killed in a human sacrifice by fellow band members.

In 1999, under the guidance of its chief exorcist, Father Gabriele Amorth, the Vatican updated the ritual for exorcism for the first time since 1614. Guidelines tell priests authorized to carry out exorcism to “diligently examine the facts,” before sprinkling holy water on someone claiming to be possessed by Satan. Students in the Vatican course will be taught to be vigilant for signs of Satan’s presence, including speaking in unknown languages and showing disproportionate physical strength.

Satanists are dismayed at the prospect of a Vatican campaign against them and maintain that Satan embodies human characteristics, which the church is mistaken to try to repress, including pride, individuality, indulgence, ambition, carnal desire and self-interest.

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