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March 7th, 2011
06:00 AM ET

Meet America's top exorcist, the inspiration for 'The Rite'

Editor's Note: This story comes from a new CNN Special, "Stories Reporter," with Tom Foreman which features an in-depth look at the news of the day.

By Tom Foreman, CNN

The sun was shining on the Santa Cruz Mountains. The freeway from the San Francisco airport to San Jose was still buzzing in my ears when I stepped into the parking lot of an unassuming church and the most famous exorcist in America walked up.

“Hello, I’m Father Gary Thomas.”  At 57 years old, he has an easy smile, an abiding love for the Giants and strong convictions about the nature of evil.

"You believe there is a devil?"  I ask him as we settle in at a small, beautiful chapel near the church.

“Yes.”

“You believe that this devil acts upon people?”

“Correct.”

He says it with the certainty that I reserve for answers to questions like, “Did you bring your lunch?” but that’s no surprise.  He has faced skeptics many times and never more than now, because his life and training as an exorcist in Rome are the inspiration behind the Hollywood film "The Rite."

Father Gary Thomas at the premier of 'The Rite'

Indeed, at the premiere, as the cameras swirled around the star, Anthony Hopkins, Thomas walked the red carpet alongside him.  This movie, like salvation, is something the priest believes in.

“First of all,” he says, “it was very emotional for me.  I found some of those scenes very riveting.  I found some of them very profound.  They’re very accurate.  That’s what I’ve seen in real life.”

That’s saying something.  "The Rite" is chock-full of heaving, cursing, ranting characters, who, according to the screenplay, are possessed by Satan, people who one moment seem fine and the next are raging against all that is holy.

And yet, Thomas says people who fear that very fate come to him constantly.  “Well, often times they’ll begin the conversation with ‘Father, I need an exorcism.’  And my answer back to them is, ‘I don’t do them on demand.’”

But he does think a lot more of them need to be done.  It is all part of a push by the Vatican to make more exorcists available to the faithful.  Some in the Catholic Church believe the world is facing a rising tide of demonic activity, particularly in America, where millions are moving away from traditional faiths and looking for alternatives.

"A lot of folks dabble in the occult, or they will be involved in practices that … classical Christianity at least would consider to be idolatrous.  People can get themselves involved in Wicca, or people will go see some sort of fortune-teller, or people will go to a séance, or they can go and they can learn how to channel spirits. …"

A vision of politician Christine O’Donnell fills my head and I interrupt.  “But a lot of people would tell you up front, ‘I’m just playing around.’”

“Right.  Absolutely.  And it’s not,” he says, noting that those who feel adrift from the church and from others of faith are more likely to be drawn in.  “Demons are always looking for human beings who have broken relationships.”

Simply put, Thomas believes just as surely as a person can summon God through prayer, through other rituals, the devil can be called, too.

Father Thomas, left, and Tom Foreman

Thomas says an exorcism usually takes from 45 minutes to two hours and involves reciting prayers, reading scriptures and using sacramental objects such as crucifixes and holy water.  Of course, that’s like saying surgery involves a knife and some sponges.

It is vastly more complicated.  Before the rite is even considered, there must be psychological testing by professionals, extended consultations and questions about drug and alcohol addiction.

Thomas says fully 80% of the people he meets claiming demonic possession have actually suffered some kind of abuse.  An exorcism, he says, is the last step in a long process.

“I have a particular situation now,” he says, “where I think this particular person is suffering from a very unique psychological disorder, but she’s also been exposed to satanic cults, and I want to make sure that what we’re dealing with … is satanic or if it is psychological.”

Even when an exorcism is prescribed, it often must be repeated.  Judging from Thomas' comments, it takes something of a trained eye to decide whether it is even working.

Father Thomas and Anthony Hopkins at the premier of 'The Rite.'

The movie, to be frank, complicates this whole discussion.  Not "The Rite."  Thomas says he likes that one, and found Anthony Hopkins a “delightful” man.

But rather the movie from 1973.  "The Exorcist" captured America's imagination about demons taking over a person’s body and profoundly shaped the public's perceptions about the process of throwing those devils out.  It was lurid, violent and unforgettable.

It was also based on a real exorcism in Washington, which was far less dramatic than the film.  Thomas will tell you emphatically there are no spinning heads, spewing pea soup or levitating bodies.

But he has seen manifestations of possession.  "Sometimes the person's head will begin to move in very rigid ways.  Sometimes their eyes will roll.  Sometimes there will be epileptic-like seizures," Thomas said.  "Occasionally people will take on kind of a body language of a serpentine look, and they'll begin to stick their tongue out and use their tongue in ways that would look snake-like, and they'll coil up in a snake-like position."

“And these are things that you have seen in real life?” I ask.

"I have seen that," he said with a wry smile.

I’ve seen it, too.  A few years ago I went to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to report on a Protestant exorcist who was holding a session in a hotel meeting room.  Several dozen people filed in while, no kidding, "The Devil Inside" by INXS played on a stereo system.

Suffice to say, there were plenty of eye-rolling, seizure-like eruptions in the crowd as people cried out and the exorcist confronted them, pressing his Bible against their heads, and demanding that their demons reveal their names.

We talked to some of the participants before and after, talked to the exorcist, too. For all their heartfelt expressions of belief, I can’t help but ask Thomas the same thing I asked that night: Couldn’t all these folks just be acting?

"I don't think they're acting out in a conscious sense,” he says, “because many times … they don't remember the experience itself.”

What’s more, he says, occasionally the person will do something that defies explanation.  "Sometimes the person will begin to speak in a language in which they have no competency in.”

Meaning, for example, someone who knows no German might start speaking precisely and accurately in that language.  Thomas says he has witnessed that, too.

I stopped by the Pew Center in Washington, where some of the best research on religion is done, to ask about all this.  Allison Pond is a charming young researcher who kindly sat me down before delivering some startling news: A Pew survey found more than one in 10 Americans have witnessed an exorcism, and when you narrow it down to Pentecostals it’s about one in three.

“Forty percent of Americans said they completely believe angels and demons are active in the world,” she told me, “with 28% telling us they mostly believe this."

That is the kind of information that needs more than a priestly explanation, so I roamed over to Georgetown University to talk to Ori Soltes, a theologian.  The problem, he says, is that we can’t know for sure what people mean when they say they’ve seen an exorcism.  Was it a formal ceremony?  A personal revelation?  A changed way of life?

Still, he has no doubt that claims of demonic meddling are high, because, after all, the year 2000 rolled around less than a dozen years ago, and at every millennium fears of the devil’s influence rise.

"My sense is that we are still in the backwash from the millennium,” he says, “but then you know ... events have helped to proliferate that:  9/11,  the war in Iraq.  And now as we approach 2012, suddenly everyone is very interested in the Mayan calendar and how we interpret the idea that the apocalypse is coming in December of 2012 at the time of equinox ... all that sort of stuff.”

So maybe it’s no wonder that Thomas is getting calls for exorcisms from not only Catholics, but also from followers of other faiths.

"How often?" I ask.

"I would say probably one out of 10."

Thomas says there are about 50 Catholic exorcists in the United States, and that’s not nearly enough.  He’d like to see one exorcist in every parish.  But until that day, he does not mind explaining over and over what exorcisms are really all about.

“It's a healing ministry.  It's not hocus pocus.  It's not smoke and mirrors.  It's not magic. But I think if we don't respond to people who come in their very troubling moments, I think it diminishes us as a church."

Despite all that Hollywood has done to mythologize exorcisms, he still believes in the power of this rite, a power born not of fear, but of faith.

CNN's Eric Marrapodi and Katie Ross contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Catholic Church • Christianity • Devil • Mass • Movies • Vatican

soundoff (1,247 Responses)
  1. Cathy

    What a shame this priest not only believes in demonic possession, he also considers himself a master exorcist. It sounds like he's on a huge trip to me, and his subjects are mentally disturbed people who need psychiatric help a hell of lot more than they need him. CNN shouldn't promote this kind of crap.

    March 8, 2011 at 12:09 am |
  2. jimmyD

    It is an amazing fact of life that almost everyone thinks that they, and they alone, have life figured out, and that everyone else is foolish. Look at the posts here. Half think there is no God and the other half think that you will only be saved if you worship God through one small sect of one religion and that everyone else is going to burn in hell. None of them has any clue as to whether they are right or wrong, and yet each one is eager to deride anyone who thinks differently from them. Kind of sad.

    March 7, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
    • Eric R.

      Jesus made it clear, that after his work on the cross, that he is the only way to God. Religion is not the way to God....Jesus is....

      But this is a topic that certainly brings much discussion.

      March 7, 2011 at 11:18 pm |
  3. Eric R.

    Who incited David to count the fighting men of Israel?
    (a) God did (2 Samuel 24: 1)
    (b) Satan did (I Chronicles 2 1:1)

    God gave David a choice to believe him or count for himself(2 Samuel 24: 1). Satan put a question in David's mind to doubt God's word and so counted for himself(I Chronicles 2 1:1). The text is not contradicting itself, it's saying the same thing.

    As for the counting errors......there was an exercise in school where the teacher lined us up against the wall and told the first person something.....they were to tell the second, the second tell the third, and on down the line. So this went on for about 31 people and then the teacher would ask the last person what she said....there were always some minor errors(or in some cases...major errors).

    Many of the Biblical books, in some cases, were written 100s of years apart so it's not surprising that some of the numbers are tweaked. I understand your desire for correctness, but there were no computers or record keeping back then like we have today. Life was very different then, than it is today. I'm actually very impressed that books so closely align with one another given the times in which it was written.

    Above all else, read the message Jesus delivers to us and seriously consider what he says.....it is very important to willingly accept him as God's son and accept his offer of forgiveness and everlasting life. You can split hairs with God on the human errors later.

    March 7, 2011 at 11:05 pm |
    • JohnR

      The Christianity of today that you are espousing has nothing to do with the Christianity of Jesus Christ. It is lost. The kingdom of the Lord is within. Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven, and then all else will be given unto you.

      March 7, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
    • Greg

      "there was an exercise in school where the teacher lined us up against the wall and told the first person something.....they were to tell the second, the second tell the third, and on down the line. So this went on for about 31 people and then the teacher would ask the last person what she said....there were always some minor errors(or in some cases...major errors)."

      That game is called "telephone".

      "Above all else, read the message Jesus delivers to us and seriously consider what he says....."

      You just conceded that the bible and the messages within were written 100s of yrs apart... so how can you know these "messages" from Jesus are accurate? You yourself used the allusion of the telephone game to talk about how messages passed over time and through multiple people are indeed inaccurrate. You can't have it both ways. The bible is obviously not the inerrant word of a mystical sky daddy, but words written by man... with the same errant logic and knowlege of primative men and the same errors in fact.

      March 8, 2011 at 9:46 am |
  4. See is believeing

    Well I see that many people don't believe in God. This is okay. What I don't understand is why attack those who do believe. See I know for a fact that God is real. I've talked with him. (no need to go into detail the non believers will attack that anyway). Spiritual Warfare is something that I've always like. I did not know that we had a top exorcist interesting.

    March 7, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
  5. Ellen Gaffney

    I have read the book (Rite) by Father Thomas – and found myself praying my way through the book. I am a retired RN, and studied abnormal Psychology @ Elgin State Hospital years ago. I was impressed by the fact that Father Thomas was unable to find much material for STUDY, even in ROME, What bothers me in our church today is that we no longer believe in Miracles - that SCIENCE can explain everything - that we don't BELIEVE IN THE REAL PRESENCE - that the best place to hide would be in the confessional (no one would think to look there) - and most of all that we have become DESENSITISED to the SACREDNESS OF LIFE. When we lose touch with the TRANSCENDENT – we will look for GOD in all the wrong places. Thank you Father Thomas for your concern for our SOULS.

    March 7, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
  6. Tony Cortez

    The truth shall set you free. I was born into a Catholic family and I grew up fearing God because He can read my thoughts and I could end up in hell. But when I was nine, I had an enlightening experience of witnessing some children die because of starvation and disease; and the first question that came to my mind was: where is God? How can he let innocent children die of hunger and diseases? From then on, my only prayer to God was: “Please show me the truth.” Perhaps, my prayer was answered. After many years of searching, it dawned on me that God cannot be defined by religion. It made my blood boil to find out how many tens of thousands of people the Catholic Church has to burn alive just to maintain its grip on power and dominance. The truth is, we were all indoctrinated according to the beliefs of our family. I am glad I found freedom. Truth is something that can withstand the test of reason and scientific scrutiny.

    March 7, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
  7. TheRationale

    This is so silly. It's like doing a rain dance or leaving out extra milk and cookies for Santa so he gives you extra presents.

    Besides, if these people have actual problems, getting a priest to do some magic juju is only going to delay actual solutions to the problems. There are plenty of parents incarcerated for negligent manslaughter for praying for their children instead of taking them to hospitals. We don't need more of that nonsense.

    March 7, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
  8. Catholic girl

    Amen to the catholic church thing(:

    "I'd rather believe and it not be true, than not believe, and it be true" (God)

    Beauty in itself.

    March 7, 2011 at 9:24 pm |
    • ThePreacher2

      That's called edging your bets. If you think the Old Man can't see through that...

      March 7, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
  9. EchoBeta

    Now articles on exorcism . what the hell is news coming to . or peoples intelligence levels. man last few years i feel like we are going back to medieval thinking.. wake up people going backwards is not the answer !!!

    March 7, 2011 at 9:10 pm |
  10. Lina

    Although I believe in god, I do not believe in the devil and possession. I believe in man and all his wrong doings and selfishness. That is the devil and hell is here on earth. Stop blaming a non-existent creature for humans mistakes and wrong doings. Take responsibility for your own actions. ...And for possession? Try a truly devout family trying to explain away their family members mental health problems with the bible, so they don't have to admit that there is something wrong with them and take them to a hospital. If we do have a soul, do you really think there is room in there for two? And were did they get these statistics from? I never got a survey in the mail asking me if I had ever witnessed an exorcism, nor has anyone in my family, neighborhood, or possible city. They take certain surveys and go to certain select groups, which are probably no more then 500 people, then say that 1 out of 10 Americans have witnessed an exorcism. Give me a break!
    I don't fear god; I love and accept him. God can not be perfect and yet still harbor hate, wrath and vengeance..those are all human emotions placed on god by man who want to believe that 'evil doers' will get their just fruits in the after life, which I'm sure they do, just not in the way you think or hope to. Stop spreading, hate and fear around in the church and the world. For people who are suppose to promote god, you seem to promote the 'devil' or better yet and more accurate, man's ignorance, evil and dark sides.

    March 7, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
    • Name*Don DiMaggio

      White collar crimes, strip clubs are legal but are they immoral? Lina?! The only people I see hiding behind anything is fine print and reverbage of manipulation and lies that sound like something nice that isn't.

      March 7, 2011 at 9:06 pm |
  11. Sir Craig

    Today, exorcism. Tomorrow, flat or middle Earthers. Yeah, this is real reportage. I expect to see stuff like this on a tabloid at the checkout.

    March 7, 2011 at 8:22 pm |
  12. michael marsh

    Jesus' drove out demons. He gave his disciples the power to cast out demons. With Jesus being God in the flesh, im sure he would no the difference between mental illness, and demonic possession. But apparently, many, even Christians refuse to believe. Wonder why? could it be because if we truely believed in the reality of hell the devil or demonic possession, it might interfere with our immoral lifestyle?

    March 7, 2011 at 8:05 pm |
    • Name*Don DiMaggio

      Very good question michael.

      March 7, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @michael marsh

      You said: "Jesus' drove out demons. He gave his disciples the power to cast out demons. With Jesus being God in the flesh, im sure he would no the difference between mental illness, and demonic possession."

      Hmm... You say Jesus being God in the flesh, im sure he would no the difference between mental illness, and demonic possession.

      Well, Jesus being God in the flesh, didn't know the earth was not flat. So I guess Jesus was not the sharpest knife in the drawer. LOL

      Do you believe in fairies? … If you believe," he [Peter] shouted to them, "clap your hands; don't let Tink die."

      Cheers!

      March 7, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
  13. Mr Mark

    A "real exorcist." That's like being a real king of the leprechauns.

    March 7, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
    • O'Shaunessy the Great

      How dare yee impune me character! I have enough gold to buy and sell yee ten time ova.

      March 7, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
  14. Michelle

    I am Catholic (know Fr. Gary Thomas, actually, and respect him). I also have epilepsy. I have a visceral negative reaction when I hear any connection between my neurological disorder and demonic possession. As I was watching the video clip, a headline struck me in the left corner of my screen. Yes, another abuse story and it's deplorable cover up by the Catholic church. I am just about at the end of my rope with this church. I can assure you that the Devil does not need to hide behind a seizure. The Devil has found a haven in the very church that allows him to flourish.

    March 7, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
  15. Saratogan

    Those of you looking for real news might want to read the following:

    http://mytown.mercurynews.com/archives/saratoganews/20060531/news3.shtml

    I have the misfortune of living across the street from "Father" Thomas and his "church". Give the guy credit. He's a master at sweeping things under the carpet...

    March 7, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
  16. Hmm..

    We are all the same Energy.. God.. Science.. Plants.. People.. Bugs.. Stars... Jesus... Zeus... whatever.
    There is no right or wrong in beliefs… but there is a good and bad. It shouldn’t matter what you believe in because if you really think about it... they are all the same thing; an answer of why we are all here and a way to cope and make living on this planet better. We all die and we were all born. Get over your “this is how is its… god, devil, science, I know the answer and you don’t” high horse; because you don’t know the answer. No one does. Personally I feel Jesus was a great profit, Buddha was a great profit, lots of them were great people before their times.

    As long as it makes you happy and as long as you are not shoving your opinion down peoples throat.. or killing people, condemning people, or hurting people because they don’t want to believe what you believe in... then we are all good. I was born Christian.. but now a days I am not. I think all religion say the same thing... a god.. a heaven.. a devil.. etc. I think believing in the stars and the earth is the same as believing in God. I believe that if you try your best and you use all your resources and you were a good person … than you did it. You’ve accomplished the obstacles we’ve all tried to accomplish.

    When you include judging or acting like you know all the answers or calling people evil atheists.. or dumb religious freaks… that’s when you are giving your belief a bad name... and that’s when you look like an idiot. Just chill out. All of you. Who freaking cares. Science and religion are seeking the same thing. Answers. Science has more ‘hard’ proof.. and the bibles claim to have ‘historical’ proof. The true answers lies within you and what has helped you get through life, as a good and non violent person.

    I like science...to me, it makes a heck of a lot more sense... but I am also spiritual. if you dont like it, fine.. t I could care less if you disagree… and you should too.

    March 7, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
  17. Tova

    As a Jewish woman who is very religious (but also very compelled and interested in scientific thought), I don't understand where the idea of exorcisms came from. I must say that it is slightly ridiculous. And the fact that 10% of Americans say they've witnessed them is a bit of a joke.
    The Hebrew Bible (Old Testament, for you Christians) never mentioned Satan (at least, Christianity's modern concept of Satan) nor hell (again, not the modern concept - Gehanna is something completely different that is NOT eternal damnation. I have no idea where these ideas came from).
    Would someone like to give any rational reasoning behind this?

    March 7, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
    • Celia

      Tova, Being a Jew myself, I have met orthodox Rabbi's who witnessed Jewish exorcism's. They said that they are no longer done, however there used to be a small number of Rabbi's trained in this specific skill. They don't use the word Devil. They say someone is possessed by demons or a Dybbyk.

      March 7, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
  18. AndrewsAFB

    How sad that there are still people naive enough to believe this nonsense, and even sadder that it's worthy of mention by a news organization.

    March 7, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
  19. Servant of G*d

    I love all .....Even starbrothers Amen........Id stick up for them too..

    March 7, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
  20. Name*Don DiMaggio

    I am absolutely disgusted with a majority of these posts but because I am a God fearing and loving MAN, I understand that people fear the word because they have either been so consumed by the lies or are blind to the fact the devil has manipulated them to do his work. Talkin down Jesus, seriously! The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit! Yes God is a loving and forgiving God but to the evil doers have no mistake he is a wrathful God as well. Do you think he would allow for this destruction to persist amongst his people, the chosen and elect? My only suggestion is to open your hearts and minds to the truth, embrace the gift of everlasting life and learn to love one another. Use even scales, don't judge others because situations can change radically and treat others how you want to be treated. A rich man will surely die to only leave his wealth to another, he will not take a red cent or material item with him, if you lose yourself in the process of attaining riches what have you left? A poor man gave all he had, suffered for the sake of rightousness and loved unconditionally as an example of a beautiful person inside and out. This life is but a grain of sand on the ocean floor compared to eternity. God keeps his promise but the choice is yours ultimately. People will lie, cheat and steal from you smileing in your face and you cant really do anything about it, see the nature of the beast is to fill you with pride and then when you lashout he traps you even more and weighs his burdens on you, you cannot handle them alone. Protect yourself with the breast plate of rightousness. Jesus forgives. His love for us is unfathomable beyond comprehension. God is the only Apha and Omega, the beginning and the end. Absolutey undisputed! People take chances everyday, place your faith and fate in something great! God is always good! And because he is a graceful God you have been given time to go forward only by his grace because he is that loving. If you are a parent do you not love your children? God loves us the same way~

    March 7, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
    • Mr Mark

      Childish blather that exhibits the typical fig leaf of Christian thought...as in Fear Ignorance and Guilt.

      Empty words, my friend. You present glare, not light.

      March 7, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
    • Name*Don DiMaggio

      One more thing, before we were born God gave us that first breath of life in light. So, we seem to have alonging for God before we ever even know what this feeling is. People take to substance abuse and label this depression when really its a home sick feeling to get closer to the Father God. Pray faithfully and whole heartedly. Give to God your troubles and fears, he is waiting for you to soften your hearts and embrace the truth. This life is a spiritual battle. There is only one chance so make the best of this short life so you may proceed to recieve the gifts God has for you. Believe~

      March 7, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
    • Name*Don DiMaggio

      Hey Mark we could spar a few rounds in the gym if you like, I am only a son of God but still a MAN. We are born in sin so not one is perfect but God and Jesus. We pray so that we may enter the kingdom of God, the path is narrow and troubling as christians are persecuted for that fact alone just as Jesus was persecuted and did no wrong. Watch your mouth.

      March 7, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
    • Sir Craig

      After reading that, I can only say it's a shame you were born several centuries too late for the Crusades. Of course, that could be why you left out mentions of 'infidels', 'heretics', etc. but otherwise you managed to bring up just about all the other scary images that has you enraptured by religion.

      By the way, I seriously think this "Belief Blog" could use an atheist perspective, or at least an "Ask an Atheist" section. What say you, CNN? I'd like to volunteer.

      March 7, 2011 at 7:48 pm |
    • Name*Don DiMaggio

      Yea Craig I am a bit ol'fashioned, believe what you will. Personally I only excercise the truth. Its one thing to debate topic of discussion but another to disrespect my person. If your throwing rocks and hiding hands what is it that has you all nasty inside? I simply made statements of fact. Debate that, but personal attacks because I belive in Christ?! C'mon!

      March 7, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
    • God

      My son, my advice to you is LAY OFF THE CRACK! You are scaring my children away.

      March 7, 2011 at 9:16 pm |
    • Brian

      I can tell that you believe in YOUR truth, but you do realize that not everyone has the same beliefs, right? Read through your lengthy post and instead of "Jesus" try subst1tuting the words "Baal", "Vishnu", "Morrigu", "Buddha", or "Flying Spaghetti Monster" and realize how crazy it all sounds. How can any of it not sounds ridiculous? Really, reread it.

      March 7, 2011 at 10:31 pm |
    • Magic

      Sir Craig,

      "By the way, I seriously think this "Belief Blog" could use an atheist perspective, or at least an "Ask an Atheist" section."

      This one works ok for that, as long as we can keep reminding the Christians that they don't own it and not to keep trying to shoo us off.

      I wish there were a somewhat better format here, however... to search for previous posts of our own or of other people. I certainly don't have time to look at all 20+ pages to follow up on something.

      March 7, 2011 at 10:44 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.