The world of sects, in the collective imagination, fascinates and frightens at the same time. A vast, multifaceted, complex, difficult to decipher territory, in which more or less capillary, transparent or underground organizations and congregations operate. Certainly, the numerous sects share one peculiarity: they preach and follow doctrines and “beliefs” that are much more radical than the “mother” cults from which they often draw inspiration and origin. Cults of a Christian or Satanist matrix, above all. Antithetical cults, one might say. Yet, these two sides of the same coin can come into contact, giving rise to a ritual mixture even more distorted and “dark”. The case we are going to tell embodies in the best way the above mentioned mixture. We are talking about the Prayer Group of the Rosary and its charismatic guide, Lidia Naccarato.
Antonio and Lidia Naccarato: the sect is born
Turin, 1973. Antonio Naccarato founds the sect called Prayer Group of the Rosary. Next to the charismatic leader, there is his niece, Lidia Naccarato, then twenty-one years old. Antonio Naccarato comes from San Pietro in Amantea, a Calabrian town in the province of Cosenza, which today has about 500 inhabitants. He works in South America, in France, and then goes to Turin to join his family, emigrated from Calabria to the capital of Piedmont in search of fortune. He works as a street vendor of shoes.
A family clan, therefore, of humble origins, closed, self-ghettoizing and self-ghettoized. As often found within these families from the most forgotten and rural province, the family Naccarato lives a religiousness as radical as distorted: Antonio is described as a saint, a healer, a man able to perform miracles and wonders in the name of God.
Lidia Naccarato, born in Amantea (a town on the Tyrrhenian coast of Calabria), immediately became the spiritual guide of the sect. Like her uncle Antonio, she also experienced the precariousness of a humble and dramatically provincial social condition. She lived in Amantea until the age of 12, then moved to Turin with her mother, sister and two brothers. Here, an integration awaits them that is anything but easy and, probably, never really sought and desired: passing from the deep and depressed South – isolated and deprived of any comfort – to the deep and rich North has the taste of a trauma. An event that further strengthens the Naccarate clan.
In 1972, when Lidia was 20 years old, there was an event that changed the fate of the Naccarato family forever. While Lidia is writing to a cousin in America, she sees a leaf and a writing in gold letters appear on the sheet of paper. The text reads: “By finding this leaf you can save the Universe. To have eternal life and to give eternal life”. In the center of the leaf, the name of the girl. The family clan, starting with Uncle Antonio, is convinced that this is a prophecy, a divine sign. Lydia is the link between God, the Virgin Mary and Humanity, the earthly arm of an apocalyptic prophecy: “to prepare the new advent of Christ on Earth to fight Evil and Satan“.
The sect of the Prayer Group of the Rosary takes shape and life the day after the continuous visions of Lydia, whose mission was revealed to her directly by Our Lady. At the center of the doctrine of the coven is the eternal struggle between Good and Evil: to remedy the effects of Original Sin and prepare the ground for the return of the Messiah are the objectives around which the group’s prayer activity revolves. These tasks are entrusted to 246 couples, led by the couple who incarnate the spiritual guide of the entire community: Antonio and Lidia Naccarato.
The Prayer Group of the Rosary grows year by year, involving the faithful and families somehow linked to the Naccarato clan; at the end of the 80’s – the period of maximum expansion of the group itself – it can count about a thousand followers, distributed among the cities of Turin, San Pietro in Amantea and Pagani (Salerno). The matrix, as can be seen, is profoundly Christian; the sect draws inspiration, of course, from the Sacred Scriptures that founded the Catholic Church, from the Bible, from the Gospels, but also from other texts, such as, for example, “The Poem of the Man God” by Maria Valtorta, a mystic from Caserta, who died in Viareggio on October 12, 1961. This work was condemned by the Holy Office (inscribed in the Index of Prohibited Books in 1959), and later – and in more recent times – published under the new title “The Gospel as it was revealed to me”.
The death of Antonio Naccarato: the prophecy
In 1983, Antonio Naccarato died. The group reads this luttuous episode as another divine sign. A sort of sacrifice necessary in the war against Evil. It was in this phase that Lydia began to receive messages relating to a bizarre, presumed divine will which, in the space of a few years, would materialize and result in a delirious prophecy. Uncle Antonio dictates the messages from beyond. In fact, he revealed to his niece Lydia the date of the end of the world: 24 May 1988. On the same day, Antonio Naccarato would be resurrected together with Jesus Christ. An apocalyptic prophecy, a rewriting, a very vulgar reworking of the Apocalypse, a text, moreover, whose contents are daily distorted and misinterpreted. The center of the story and its tragic epilogue is, again, Calabria.
The death of Antonio Naccarato is an authentic watershed. The group, in fact, isolates itself further: the members of the sect no longer go to church to pray, they begin to wear – as a sign of mourning – black clothes, a rosary around their necks. A bond – from Turin to San Pietro in Amantea – that, starting from the death of Antonio Naccarato, gets stronger and stronger year after year, day after day: the sect lives for the prophecy and waiting for its fulfilment.
At the beginning of 1988, the sect undertook a profound reorganization, establishing new hierarchies. Devotees are now – so to speak – classified by age and gender. There are the “Apostles of life”, the “Consecrated”, the “Handmaids”, and finally the “Little Virgins”, that is, the youngest, the adolescents. All, of course, gathered around the figure of Lidia Naccarato, now the undisputed leader of the sect Prayer Group of the Rosary. The headquarters and meeting place of the group is a farmhouse in Moschicella, a district of San Pietro in Amantea. Among rituals, prayers and prophecies, we arrive in May 1988.
The murder of Pietro Latella, the incarnation of Satan
On May 17, 1988, Lidia received a new message from her late uncle Antonio. The words leave no room for vague interpretations: Antonio announced his resurrection for the following day – 18 May – and ordered his niece to call for a day of prayer in anticipation of the happy event. Lidia obeys: the members of the sect begin to pray, from morning to night. But on May 18, 1988, everything was silent: no apocalyptic event, no resurrection. Uncle Antonio did not appear. It was Lidia’s fault: she didn’t stop the mourning, she didn’t loose her hair, tied up since the day of her uncle’s death. The ritual, then, must start again. A new day is therefore indicated: 8 June 1988. But Lydia, at this point, receives a new, unexpected message from her uncle Antonio; he warns her of the presence of Evil, embodied in a person – part of the sect – who will try to kidnap or kill Lydia herself. The members of the sect, therefore, gather a large quantity of weapons, intended to defend the sect itself and, in particular, the supreme guide, Lidia.
The date of June 8, however, is soon retracted. Lidia receives, in fact, another message from her uncle Antonio, who indicates 24 May: on this day, according to the prophecy, there will be the end of the world and the simultaneous resurrection of Antonio Naccarato, Jesus Christ and the apparition of Our Lady. Lydia terminates the mourning, imitated by all the members of the Prayer Group of the Rosary. No longer black clothes, but clear or brightly coloured ones. Everything is ready to welcome Anthony and defeat Evil. Above a table, a painting of the Madonna and a photo of Antonio Naccarato. At this point, however, the already vain story degenerates and is tinged with red. Blood red.
The already delirious – but harmless – staging of Lidia Naccarato and her followers turns, in fact, into an episode of crime with rather dark colors. Around 9 p.m. on 24 May 1988, Lidia received a further message from Antonio; the deceased, in fact, indicated in Pietro Latella that threat announced in the previous messages. Pietro Latella is a merchant, resident in Turin but born in France to Calabrian parents. He is, within the hierarchy of the sect, a “Consecrated”. He is 27 years old.
Lidia calls her brother, Salvatore Naccarato, and orders him to gather all the “Consecrated” in a room, except Pietro Latella. The latter, feeling threatened and now abandoned by the group, decides to return to Turin. When he is already driving his own car, he is chased by other “Consecrated” people: gunshots at the tyres cause Pietro Latella to lose control of the car and ruin it in a slope. He suffered multiple fractures but was still alive. Taken out of the car, he is taken again to the farmhouse in the Moschicella district. The ritual becomes more and more macabre, esoteric and violent. The mixture of Christianity, esotericism, occultism and Satanism is accomplished and consumed in a remote farm in the deep south of Italy.
Latella is hogtied to a chair placed inside a red circle painted on the ground. Then, a cat is sacrificed, right in front of the “traitor”. On all the doors of the farmhouse there is a circle with nine crosses inside. While the others continue to pray in a circle, the ritual reaches its epilogue. Pietro Latella is recognized as Judas, the apostle who betrayed Jesus. But it is not enough to have him immobilized. A new intervention by Antonio suggests to Lidia to kill Pietro Latella. An authentic human sacrifice so that the prophecy may be fulfilled. Peter Latella, now, is the incarnation of the devil, of Satan. He is Satan. Lidia commissions Santo Sicoli and the already mentioned Salvatore Naccarato to kill Pietro Latella. Twelve shots fired, as many as the number of Apostles.
Among group hallucinations, rituals, prayers, songs, dances, states of trance, homosexual sex (homosexual practices are imposed on women) and blood, the door of the room is welded and inside lies, now dying, Peter Latella. The aim of the operation is to prevent the Devil from going out and taking possession of another body. Lydia is lying down, in an apparent state of trance, dressed in white. In her hand she holds a rosary. The sect awaits the dawn of 25 May. During the night, in the meantime, some followers claim to read in the sky the inscription “Viva Maria”, evidence of the imminent resurrection of Antonio. They began to fire blows in the air, one of which injured Lorenzo Tomasicchio with a smear. His wife was also present at the ceremony.
The prophecy doesn’t come true. Or rather, according to the sect, it is late to realize itself. Meanwhile, Lorenzo Tomasicchio is accompanied to the hospital in Cosenza. He has a wound to his face. His versions of the facts, however, do not convince the rescuers. The Carabinieri go to the farmhouse. The show is disarming, disconcerting: the ritual, waiting for the fulfillment of the prophecy, is still in place. People who were already tired, who had been praying for days, without sleeping or eating. Yet, these followers still have the strength to continue to pray, singing and dancing around an improvised altar, holding hands, waiting for the coming of the Lord and Antonio Naccarato. The attention of the Carabinieri, however, was immediately captured by the welded door. After opening it, the soldiers run into Pietro Latella, now a corpse: he has bled to death as a result of numerous gunshot wounds. In addition to the body of Pietro Latella, the Carabinieri found money (the chronicles of the time speak of about 1 billion lire (about 580.000 dollars) in cash, bank deposits and banker’s checks), weapons (rifles and guns) and photos of Marco Fiora, a 7-year-old boy kidnapped in 1987 in Turin and held prisoner for 17 months (520 days). This is the period of the Anonima Sequestri (Anonymous kidnappings), of the repeated kidnappings in Aspromonte (Calabria). It was thought of an involvement of the sect in the kidnapping of the young, but investigative track proved unfounded and were finally abandoned.
Weapons and money in quantity testify, evidently, to the shady traffics in which the members of the sect are entangled.
The Carabinieri arrested the members of the sect present at the ceremony and Lidia Naccarato, to whom, already in February 1989, house arrest was granted. Among the arrested, people belonging to the family Naccarato and Sicoli, among them there is Rosa Sicoli, 33 years old, employed by the City of San Pietro in Amantea. Ada Naccarato, daughter of Antonio Naccarato, was not arrested; although she was present at the ritual, she had to take care of her sick children and many grandchildren, whose families were kept under arrest.
A year later, in May 1989, the Carabinieri were forced to make a new roundabout of arrests. Lidia Naccarato and some members of the group, in fact, violate the house arrest: they are discovered again by the Carabinieri to pray in the now famous farmhouse in the district Moschicella. Among the 12 arrested followers, there are Franco Mele and Gaetano Donzellini, coming from Turin and also escaped from their homes. Lidia Naccarato, on the other hand, is accused only of having broken the obligations arising from house arrest: the woman, in fact, lives in the farm.
The guide, like all the followers of the sect Gruppo di Preghiera del Rosario, does not prove or express remorse of any kind. The members, for their part, blindly follow the verb of the spiritual guide, Lidia, never questioned by the devotees. The latter justifies the murder of Pietro Latella by quoting the verses of the prophet Daniel (9, 26-27):
26 After the sixty-two weeks,
an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing,
and the troops of the prince who is to come
shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.
Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end
there shall be war. Desolations are decreed.
27 He shall make a strong covenant with many
for one week, and for half of the week
he shall make sacrifice and offering cease;
and in their place shall be an abomination that desolates,
until the decreed end is poured out
upon the desolator.
Lidia does not know why Peter Latella incarnated Satan; as she affirms, it was a matter of a few seconds, brief and agitated moments during which she establishes without appeal that Peter Latella is the Evil, the Devil, Satan himself.
Lidia Naccarato is the leading figure in this black story. A story forgotten but which, still today, represents a military stone of Italian criminology. That’s because of the unprecedented mixture of Christianity, esotericism and points of Satanism has made and makes this crime unique, disturbing and fascinating at the same time. Para-Christian prophecies, black magic rituals, esoteric practices, animal and human sacrifices, para-esoteric and para-christian symbols, typical figures of the Christian-Catholic religion – Our Lady, Jesus, Satan – are mixed together to create a doctrinal humus with unpredictable and fatal outcomes. In fact, Lidia Naccarato – to a greater extent than her uncle Antonio – moulds in her own image and likeness a religion, a creed, a hyperbolic and apocalyptic doctrine, capable of breaking through into individuals who are easily manipulated, from a low cultural level, children of a territory and a social substratum in which religion – as present as it is intensely lived – is, however, synonymous with superstition, a daily refuge full of beliefs.
Reiterate, in-depth psychiatric surveys and targeted investigations have tried to penetrate the most hidden folds of the individual Lidia Naccarato. The result is a psychological profile that is not easy to read, oscillating between two diagnosis hypotheses: delusional psychosis or perverse-psychopathic/evolutionary disharmony with hysterical traits and sexual problems (hence, for example, the imposition of homosexual practice, accepted by devotees without any opposition as a necessary and functional expression for the good of the group itself). In any case, we are in the presence of a woman who is strongly manipulative, centralizing, constantly in need of approval and attention and, at the same time, closed in on herself, far from society. Hence the need to create a sort of alternative, parallel community, increasingly shaped in its own image and likeness, represented, in fact, by the sect Prayer Group of the Rosary.
Lidia Naccarato transforms an already rambling prayer group based on the Christian-Catholic religion – further elaborated, interpreted, reinvented – into a sect that presents all the connotations and formal and external characterizations typical of Traditionalist Satanism and of the so-called “acid Satanism” (or Acidism), several times at the centre of the crime chronicles and strongly rejected by those who embrace authentic Satanist and Luciferian currents. The ritual murder, above all, is revealed as the main point of contact between the Rosary Prayer Group and Acidism: the acid “Satanists” have killed and kill in the name of Satan in opposition to the Christian God, Lidia Naccarato and his followers have killed in the name of God in opposition to Satan. These “cults” are only formally antithetical, but mirror in substance and in the final act. Evidently, a human sacrifice is synonymous with a mere criminal act.
Since that May 1988, the Prayer Group of the Rosary has been in a state of stasis: officially still alive, but with little – or perhaps even more submerged – activity. A group, in fact, emblematic example of “acid Christianity”.