Exorcists in training as Vatican tackles rising cases of the ‘demon and possession’

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‘Satan arrives wherever there are human beings’: a special conference will be held in April to help bishops who train priests to become exorcists (file photo) CREDIT: PACIFIC PRESS / BARCROFT IMAGES

The Vatican is holding a training course for exorcists from around the world to help the Roman Catholic Church cope with the growing numbers of people who claim to be possessed, Church officials say.

A conference held in April at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum in Rome will focus on anthropological, social, theological, liturgical, pastoral, and medical aspects of “exorcism and the prayer of liberation.”

It is aimed especially at providing support for bishops who train priests to become exorcists.

Cardinal Angelo Amato, the Vatican Prefect for the Congregation of the causes of saints, will open proceedings with a lecture on fighting Satan.

The number of Italians approaching exorcists has tripled recently to half a million people, according to Vatican News.

Father Cesare Truqui, a priest who learned to cast out demons from Italy’s most famous exorcist, Fr. Gabriele Amorth, told the Vatican Insider that “in the popular mind, the exorcist is a sort of good wizard who deals with the devil.”

He acknowledged that many who turn to exorcists in reality have “problems of the family, of losing work, even girls with problems of the heart” while others suffer from “spiritual deviation.”

“Even among Catholics there is a lot of superstition,” he said. “I have been asked for help by a girl who requested a long-distance exorcism of her ex-boyfriend who left her. In such cases one tries to give human understanding.”

True possession by demons is not common, he says, cautioning nevertheless that “the devil is always lying in ambush.”

“Nowhere is immune, not even the Vatican. Satan arrives wherever there are human beings.”

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Jesus was frequently asked to cast demons out of people CREDIT: THE ART ARCHIVE/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK

Brother Benigno Palilla, a Sicilian exorcist, also blames superstition for the surge.

“The number of people ready to make use of wizards, sorcerers, people reading cards and the tarot has increased,” he told Vatican News. “That leads to the demon and to possession.”

Last month Brother Palilla organized a grassroots training course for Sicilian exorcists who learned about Satanist sects and heard “stories of liberation” from the exorcised.

“A self-taught exorcist certainly will make mistakes. He needs a period of apprenticeship,” he said.

“The possessed are the existential backwater of which Pope Francis talks. They are people who suffer a lot and, unfortunately, are not inserted in the Church registry office,” Brother Palilla said.

Fr. Truqui says the course in Rome next month is timely because the struggle against the Devil has reached “a crucial stage of history.”

“Many Christians no longer believe in the existence of the malign one, few exorcists are appointed. There are no longer young priests willing to learn the doctrine and the practice of the liberation of souls.”

Critics warn that exorcisms can be a form of “spiritual abuse” and counsel extreme caution using them.

The Church of England says medical professionals must be consulted where appropriate.

Anne Richards, the Church of England’s national adviser on such issues told the Guardian: “Exorcism in a technical sense is incredibly rare. I don’t think I’ve ever come across a case that’s been authorised.”

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