.- Roman Catholic priests will work with Italian police to tackle a rising tide of crimes linked to satanic worship.
The Vatican has reportedly assigned clerics with experience in the field of devil worship and the occult to assist the Italian anti-sect squad. Church officials have become concerned about the number of churches being desecrated by Satanists. In recent months, there have also been a string of murders that have been linked to devil worship.
One of the Vatican's leading experts on Satanism and the occult, Fr. Oreste Benzi, told The Sunday Telegraph that young people were particularly attracted to the occult due to their natural curiosity, but that drugs are also used to influence and manipulate them.
"We are not just talking about murders but the psychological grip that these sects have on young people, especially taking them away from traditional social values and exposing them to all sorts of horrors,” the priest told The Sunday Telegraph.
Fr. Benzi estimates that there are at least 8,000 satanic sects across the country with more than 600,000 members.
The nationwide operation will be centrally controlled from Rome by Police Chief Gianni de Gennaro. A special free phone hotline has been set up to report occult activities.
Police say Satanists are particularly active in Piedmont, Veneto and Emilia Romagna in the north, and Tuscany, Umbria, Calabria and Puglie further south.