Satanic cults reportedly are on the rise in Italy. In Milan, eight members of a group calling themselves the Beasts of Satan are facing trial Feb. 21 for three murders.
Experts say this trend should not be exaggerated, that drugs appear to have been as much of a factor in the killings as Satan.
Andrea Volpe, 27, led investigators to a wooded location near a small town northwest of Milan. There the remains of two teen-agers, who had been beaten and stabbed, were recovered.
The Beasts of Satan case is one of a few gory murders that have caused great concern among priests and parents, and have grabbed the attention of Italians who are terrified about the reputed growth of satanic cults in the Catholic country.
Parents and clergy see this development as proof that a disturbed, amoral younger generation is turning away from God and courting the occult and, in the extreme, embracing devil worship.
The Vatican is concerned enough with this issue to provide special training for priests and novices this spring. Romes Regina Apostolorum, a prestigious pontifical university, will teach a two-month course focusing on the history, theology, and sociology of Satanism and black magic, and the power of exorcism.
Carlo Climati is the instructor for the course. Speaking of the seduction of the young, he said: They hear it in music, they find it on the Internet. Ten years ago, when young people wanted to find out about Satanism, it was difficult. Now its very easy.
Climati said the course was created partly in response to appeals from priests who were being asked for help by parents suspicious and concerned about the activities of their children.
It would be a big mistake to see the devil everywhere, he said. There is no reason to panic. What we are teaching is how to know the language of Satanism, how to identify where [the phenomenon] is, and where it is not.
Eurispes, an Italian research institute, has identified 650 satanic organizations in Italy, mostly in the Lombardy region of northern Italy, including Milan.
Sociologists say there probably are more disaffected youth there than in the south of the country because of a weaker family structure, affected by migration and other factors. Milan also has a raucous and riotous underground heavy metal culture. It was in that environment, at a club called Midnight, that the Beasts of Satan rock band got its start and flourished.
Volpe and seven others, all younger than 30, will be tried for murder in the slayings of three of their friends and the allegedly forced suicide of a fourth person. Volpe admitted to detectives that he and his girlfriend, Elisabetta Ballarin, got Volpes former girlfriend, Mariangela Pezzotta, 27, to come to a remote chalet last January.
The pairsaid to be high on drugs and alcoholallegedly shot Pezzotta in the face and then buried her alive in a shallow grave. Police say another Volpe associate arrived later and killed the woman with a shovel.
The other two victims were Fabio Tollis, 16, a former singer with the band, and Chiara Marino, 19, also a former band member. The killings took place six years ago. Police later arrested Volpe for Pezzottas death. That was when he took them to the woods near Busto Arsizio, 25 miles northwest of Milan.
In his diary, Volpe wrote: We are wicked individuals. We plague the people and we play with their lives. We know no pity (Los Angeles Times).