The Vatican held an “exorcist training” course for priests a few months ago in preparation for the rise in demonic possessions across the globe. Demands for the practice of exorcism have risen worldwide thereby prompting the demands for deliverance.
The Vatican-backed International Association of Exorcists, which represents more than 200 Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox priests, said the increase represented a “pastoral emergency.” According to a priest from Sicily, the number of people in Italy claiming to be possessed by demonic entities had tripled to 500,000 a year, and an Irish priest has said demand for exorcisms has “risen exponentially.” According to The Guardian, last year, the Christian thinktank Theos reported that exorcisms were a “booming industry” in the UK, particularly among Pentecostal churches.
Some warn that “deliverance ministry,” as exorcism is often called, can be a form of spiritual abuse. Critics also say LGBT people and those with mental health issues are targeted for deliverance in the belief that their sexuality or psychiatric problems are the results of demonic possession. Many others, however, actually believe themselves to be possessed by one or more demonic entities.
The Vatican training course, which was held at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum in Rome between 16-21 April, focused on exorcism and the prayer of liberation, a prayer commonly used for deliverance from possession.
“The fight against the evil one started at the origin of the world and is destined to last until the end of the world,” Friar Cesare Truqui, one of the speakers, told Vatican News. “But today we are at a stage crucial in history: many Christians no longer believe in [the devil’s] existence, few exorcists are appointed and there are no more young priests willing to learn the doctrine and practice of liberation of souls.”
Friar Benigno Palilla, an exorcist from Sicily who reported a tripling of demonic possession cases on the island, acknowledged the issue was controversial but added: “The demoniacs … suffer a lot.”
“A self-taught exorcist certainly makes errors. I will say more: it would also take a period of apprenticeship, as happens for many professionals.” In Ireland, Friar Pat Collins said he had been inundated, almost daily, with people seeking help to deal with what they believed to be demonic possession and other evil, and called for more training in exorcism.
“It’s only in recent years that the demand has risen exponentially,” he told the Irish Catholic. “What I’m finding out desperately, is people who in their own minds believe – rightly or wrongly – that they’re afflicted by an evil spirit. “I think in many cases they wrongly think it, but when they turn to the church, the church doesn’t know what to do with them.”
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