Exorcism Makes a Believer of a Journalist

Spanish Reporter Relates Harrowing Rite in Madrid

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MADRID, Spain, OCT. 6, 2002 (Zenit.org).- A newspaper reporter went to an exorcism as a skeptic -- and came away a believer.

José Manuel Vidal, religious affairs correspondent of the newspaper El Mundo, attended, "incredulous," an exorcism carried out by a priest authorized by the Vatican. His account, "The Exorcism I Witnessed in Madrid," recently appeared in the periodical, which is not known for its pro-clerical bent.

Vidal, together with the religious affairs correspondent of EFE news agency, witnessed the exorcism in Madrid, carried out by Father José Antonio Fortea, 33, a parish priest at Our Lady of Zulema.

The rite took place in a chapel. The possessed was a 20-year-old woman, whom the newspaper called Martha. She was "rather small and of gentle features," Vidal said in his description.

"I sense the rite is about to begin," he wrote. "I sit down with anticipation on the bench. The exorcist stretches out his right hand and holds it over her face, without touching her. Then, he closes his eyes, lowers his head, and whispers an unintelligible prayer several times. A frightening shriek, the first, breaks the chapel's silence, it penetrates my soul and gives me goose bumps."

"It isn't human," Vidal added. "A startling shrill and deep sound comes out of Martha's throat. But it cannot be her; it isn't her tone of voice. It is hoarse and masculine. Father Fortea continues praying and the roars well up, one after the other. Little by little the girl's body shakes intensely. Her head turns from one side to the other, first slowly and then with unheard-of speed."

"As the exorcist recites the psalmody, the girl groans and twists nonstop," the journalist continued. "All of a sudden, the groaning becomes a frightening roar, high-pitched and furious. The exorcist has just placed the crucifix on her abdomen and chest, while sprinkling her with holy water. She kicks with such fury that the crucifix falls down and her mother picks it up again and again, placing it on her and handing her a rosary that Martha hurls away furiously."

"My mind is spinning," the reporter admitted. "We are at the climax of a ritual that, up to now, did not fit my scheme, despite the fact that in the seminary, the priests continued to nourish my childish fear of the Evil One, always ready to take possession of a soul."

"After the Second Vatican Council, the dogma of the devil's existence became an 'embarrassing part of doctrine' and, as so many other Catholics, I also dispensed with it," Vidal recalled.

The screams stop the minute the priest leaves the chapel. "I notice a certain disappointment on the mother's face," the reporter wrote. "I had the feeling she hoped it would be today. She has spent close to three hours on her knees, but there is no sign of exhaustion on her face, only of a certain disappointment."

"I pray for Martha and her mother. What I saw was not a setup," the report concluded.

When El Mundo published the story Sept. 22, it ran an editorial that described Vidal's narrative as consistent and concluded: "Each one is free to look for the explanation he/she wishes of events like the one described today by José Manuel Vidal."