SANTIAGO, Chile - The gruesome murder of a priest in Chile by a
Satanist sent shock waves throughout the Latin American nation in July.
An Italian missionary, Servite Father Faustino Gazziero de Stefani,
was slain by a 25-year-old man moments after he had finished saying Mass
in Santiago's cathedral.
The assailant, Rodrigo Orias Gallardo, was dressed in black and armed
with a knife. Witnesses said Gallardo knelt next to the priest after
killing him and began to invoke Satan's name. It was the first time that
a Satanist publicly attacked and killed someone in Chile.
Similar events took place in northern Italy this past June. Police
arrested three men who
are accused of ordering the murder of at least five youths in the area
around Milan since 1998.
Police say the three Satanists ordered the ritual killings of a
19-year-old woman, Chiara Marino, and 18-year-old Fabio Tollis in 1998.
Marino was found dead in the woodland areas northwest of Milan, and
Tollis, a guitarist with a Milan heavy-metal group, was murdered because
of last-minute doubts regarding the "sacrifice" of Marino. Another
woman, Mariangela Pezzota, was killed by the sect in January because the
group felt she knew too much. Judge Toni Novik, the magistrate in charge
of the case, said it was
the first instance of serial killings by Satanists in Italy.
The events serve as reminders that Satanism is all too real and raise
questions about how widespread Satanic groups are, how and why young
people get involved, what parents can do and how youths can be saved.
Father Gabriel Amorth has been the exorcist for the Diocese of Rome
for the past 18 years. He says one of the main ways young people get
involved is through dance clubs. "I don't want to generalize, but first
you see them get involved with alcohol, then drugs, then sex. And then
Father Amorth said that whenever he talks to parents, the first thing
he tells them is not to give their children money. "If kids have
everything, they do not develop the habit of sacrifice, the value of
obligation or responsibility. They become discontented with life and
seek adventure to fill this emptiness. Above all, it leads them to
The most important thing that parents can do is give their children
ideals and values, he said. "We used to see God as the head of the
household. Now, kids don't believe in God. They abandon the faith. They
do not know what patriotism is." Father Amorth also pointed to the high
incidence of broken families in Italy as a factor which contributes to
youths getting involved in Satanic cults.
Father Mitch Pacwa, a Jesuit priest and host for a series on EWTN,
believes that another major factor is the desire for friendship.
"There are some kids who are kind of misfits," he said. "They feel
different from the rest. Other kids don't like them, which adds to the
problem. Somebody from a Satanic group will seek them out and recruit
The desire for friendship is so strong, Father Pacwa said, that these
youths are amazed that anyone is even paying attention to them when they
One of the most dangerous cases is when an adult recruits an
adolescent. "If an older woman befriends an adolescent boy, which is not
unusual, she seduces him," Father Pacwa said. "What usually happens is
that the seductive partner says, 'I know you like what we did. I have
photographs to prove it.' She blackmails him. Then, the group will up
the ante. And say 'Okay, now let's kill a cat.' And it goes on from
In other cases, young people will form groups and invent Satanic
practices. "They are making it up as they go along," Father Pacwa said.
"They don't know anything about it. These are cult want-to-bes, which
has its own dangers. They begin to dare each other to do things."
Nobody really knows how widespread Satanic sects are because of the
secretive nature of these groups. Father Amorth believes the phenomenon
is growing in Italy, though he could not give any statistics. "These
groups get together and disband very easily," he said. "They are usually
very small groups." Father Bernardino Zanello, vicar general for the
Servants of Mary Order in Santiago, where Father Gazziero served, said
there are more than 80 Satanic groups in Chile that have been identified
One characteristic of these groups is their tendency to glorify
themselves. "They try to make themselves look more fearful than they
are," Father Pacwa said. "Their point is to try to shock and attack the
basic faith of their parents in God." Father Pacwa likened these groups
to street gangs. "I used to work with street gangs, who had similar
delusions of grandeur. These kids really believed they were protecting
their neighborhoods. St. Ignatius Loyola says that Satan uses pride."
Once people succumb to pride, other sins begin to
fall into place.
There are many signs that parents should look for: a sudden drop in
grades, a fascination with the occult and drug use.
"Parents have this foolish idea that their kids' rooms are their own
space," said Father Pacwa. "That's foolish! It's their house. Check it
out. Are there drugs going on? Is there evidence of sexual behavior
especially with an adult, which is criminal behavior?"
The most important advice for parents, according to Father Pacwa, is
to know their child's heart.
"You know when your own children lie," he said. "When you see
off-behavior, catch it early on. Ask them: What's in your heart? Hang
out with them. Go for a walk. They will talk to you. Do this on a
regular basis. It will help preclude this kind of stuff."
Once youths become involved in Satanic groups, it becomes difficult
to leave. It is important that the youths involved want to leave.
Spiritual direction is needed, as well as prayer by loved ones. Parents
must help their children realize how harmful these activities can be.
As for the aftermath of these tragedies, investigations continue in
Chile and in Italy. Father Zanella believes that, for the good of
society, a thorough investigation must take place.
"I think we must understand these groups," he said. "We cannot confuse
things, because the reality is complex. What does this mean for society?
Why are these things happening? The problem needs to be confronted. We
need to give our youths more ideals."
Father Pacwa remains optimistic about the problem.
"In the first epistle of St. John, chapter four, verse four, it says:
'For there is one greater in you than in the world.' It is very
important for us to have this sense. This must be the basis from which
we act. Believe me, I don't go looking for the forces of evil, but I
don't worry about being overly afraid."
Sabrina Ferrisi writes from Jersey City, New Jersey.
Reprinted with permission