BY VIVIANE EWITT n. Ro THE CHURCH t launched a major Catholi revival in Rome and Flor nce, which some clergy des 'bed as the two European ities most threatened by e spread of sects.
In Rome th Vicariat, which tends t the city's diocese on the P pe's behalf, has reiterated it warning to Catholics not to succumb to the proselytism f Jehovah's Witnesses.
This organisa on now has 10,000 "ream nt officers" at work on th Vatican's doorstep but they are "dangerous and estructive", a spokesman said.
The Church has voiced concern that the Witnesses are demonstrating a greater "capacity for expansion" in Italy than in any bther Euro pean country. I The organisatr counts 203,000 "do r-to-door pastors" and 2,600 Kirtgdom Halls, 113 of whiclh are in the city of Rome alore.
According to a rew Church study on the Wit4esses here, these figures have .sen alarmingly in the past decade. Ten years ago, the sect had 4,300 itinerant pastors and 60 meeting places.
In the more r cent past, upwards of 10,00 Catholics in Rome have become Witnesses, but a t ew reconversion campaign has "recuperated 200 faithful", said Mgr Lorenzo Minuti, who runs the Rome office of the SectResearch and Information Group (GRIS).
GRIS studies have also shown Catholics are warned, that the rate of suicide and mental illness is four times higher in the ranks of Jehovah's Witnesses than in any other comparable religious grouping.
Meanwhile in Florence, there are more "wizards and witches than priests", said the city's Cardinal Archbishop Silvano Piovanelli.
In a special pastoral letter, described as a "manifesto of spiritual ecology", Tuscan bishops remind Christians of their duty to reject all manner of esoteric activity, including horoscopes. These practices are a "deviation of the truth revealed".
In the Tuscan region alone, according to Church figures, 1,000 of Italy's estimated 70,000 occultists are at work and one person in three claims to have taken part in at least one seance.
Tuscany is also home to a bizarre group of 20 formerly devout Catholics who have been living in a hotel for the past ten years while they wait for the end of the world and the "resurrection of the AntiChrist as Pope". He will be called Emmanuel I.
The bishops' manifesto is a 33-page treatise on the dangers of dabbling in the occult. It was re-written four times over a period of two years before publication this week.