A Catholic priest was arrested in Palermo, Sicily on charges that he sexually molested four adult women and a twelve-year-old girl while pretending to rid them of demonic possession. Father Salvatore Anello, aged 59, was arrested at a Capuchin convent by investigators from the state police's child protection unit. According to prosecutors, he had met his victims while serving as a chaplain at a local hospital. His victims, many of whom suffer from serious physical or psychiatric illness, reported being told by Anello that he could free them from demonic influence with prayers and took advantage of his position to molest them.
The arrest stems from the six-month investigation of a similar case in Palermo involving a self-proclaimed exorcist, Colonel Salvatore Muratore, charged with ten counts of molestation. The 52-year-old Muratore, a Colonel in the Italian military, had met his victims while a member of the Renewal of the Holy Spirit Catholic community. According to his victims, Muratore had promised to pray for them as a member of the community despite not having any official position. He would then come to their homes to "free them from the demon of lust." He has since been suspended by the Italian military.
In both cases, the Catholic church and the Renewal of the Holy Spirit Catholic community have distanced themselves from the two suspects. The Catholic Church also denied that Father Anello was formally authorized to carry out exorcisms. Both of the accused remain in custody until they stand trial while police ask other potential victims to come forward.