The Vatican is launching a new international exorcism training course in response to a growing demand for priests skilled in tackling demonic possession.
A week-long course on exorcism will be held in April at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum, a Catholic educational institute in Rome.
In 2011, the Catholic Church warned that a surge in Satanism, facilitated by the internet, had led to a sharp rise in the demand for exorcism, and a six-day conference on the subject took place at the institute.
The announcement of the training course is likely to be welcomed by Fr Pat Collins, a Irish leading exorcist who said recently he is “baffled” why Church leaders are not taking action as more people claim to be victims of demonic activity.
The focus of the course is “to offer a rich reflection and articulation on a topic that is sometimes unspoken and controversial”, Italian priest and exorcist Benigno Palilla told Vatican Radio.
“We touch on the most burning issues: From the sects linked to Satanism to the [telling] their story of liberation [from] their possession,” he added.
The course was set up amid the increasing popularity of tarot cards readers and fortune tellers that opened “the door to the devil and to possession”, Fr Palilla said, according to Newsweek.
He noted that the demand for exorcism services tripled in the last few years, to 500,000 cases in Italy, although most cases of alleged demonic possession were prompted by psychological and spiritual issues.
In France, the demand for exorcists has also soared, but the services are outsourced to “independent operators”, who conduct the exorcism.
Fr Palilla warned about using untrained priests to get rid of demons.
“A self-taught exorcist certainly makes errors,” he said.
Last month, Fr Collins, a member of the Vincentian Order based in Dublin, said the Church in Ireland needs at least one trained exorcist for each diocese as he gets messages daily from people looking for his help.
The priest said the Church is “out of touch with reality” as they are sending “sufferers of possession” to psychologists instead of performing rituals.
Fr Collins told The Irish Catholic newspaper that demand for exorcism services has “risen exponentially” in recent years.
“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,” said Fr Collins.
“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 and they refer them on either to a psychologist or to somebody that they’ve heard of that is interested in this form of ministry, and they do fall between the cracks and often are not helped.”
In an open letter to the Irish hierarchy, he also said there is growing apostasy within the Church.
“As this has happened, there has been increasing evidence of the malicious activity of the evil one,” he wrote.
“I can’t judge from my own subjective experience because people see on the internet that I’m supposed to be an exorcist so I get an inordinate number of calls from people, and emails, all I can say is I have that reputation, but it’s only in recent years that the demand has risen exponentially.”
In 2014, the Vatican recognised exorcism as a practice subject to canon law.
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