Catholic Church Training More Priests in Exorcisms

Image: Catholic Church Training More Priests in Exorcisms Italian exorcist Father Gabriele Nanni holds his book "The Finger of God and the Power of Satan, the Exorcism".

Sunday, 05 Jan 2014 03:45 PM

By Elliot Jager

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Though prelates say the need is "rare, very rare," the Catholic Church is preparing additional priests, particularly in Italy and Spain, to perform authorized exorcisms, the Daily Telegraph reports.

Dioceses in Italy and Spain are training priests in how to conduct the rite of exorcism partly to address the increase in numbers of unauthorized "dodgy" exorcisms.

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In Milan alone the Church recently designated seven exorcists, the paper said.

John Allen, a Vatican observer for the National Catholic Reporter said that the increase in the number of priests trained in exorcisms is "a response to public demand, but it's also about quality control," the Telegraph reported.

There are elements in the Church who believe that "diabolical possession" has increased due to the Internet where people can be exposed to material about black magic, paganism and other "dark arts," according to the Telegraph.

Exorcism is a ritual in which evil spirits or malign influences are removed through incantation and prayer, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia.

Believers in the phenomenon say symptoms of possession include jabbering in languages foreign to the speaker, irrepressible shaking, and vomiting objects such as nails, metal and glass, according to the Telegraph.

In May 2013, Pope Francis was said to have performed an exorcism during a outdoor Mass in St Peter's Square. A Vatican spokesman said the pope "did not intend" to perform any such exorcism.

While more traditionalist Church voices are speaking about "a striking frequency" in cases of "demonic possession," on the record the Church holds that most of those who think they are possessed are suffering from mental illnesses such as paranoia and depression and are advised to see a mental health professional.

Father Vincenzo Taraborelli, whose church is near the Vatican, told the Telegraph that the need for an exorcism is "rare, very rare."

"We know that Pope Francis is a strong believer in popular religion such as Marian devotion," said Allen. "But that also includes belief in the devil." The pope is on record as saying that "The devil enjoys the atmosphere, the lifestyle of worldliness," Allen told the Telegraph.

In 1973, the Hollywood movie "The Exorcist," about the demonic possession of a 12-year-old girl, was a major box office success.

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