Exorcists on the rise as Church faces 'unprecedented' demand

Increasing number of Catholic priests trained in exorcism as more people dabble in the dark arts

LAST UPDATED AT 15:51 ON Mon 6 Jan 2014

THE Catholic Church is said to be training more priests in exorcism in a bid to tackle an "unprecedented rise" in cases of "demonic possession". 

According to the Daily Telegraph, dioceses across Italy and Spain are among those increasing the number of priests schooled in the practice of exorcising evil spirits.

The diocese of Milan recently nominated seven new exorcists, the bishop of Naples has appointed three new exorcists and the Catholic Church in Sardinia sent three priests for exorcism training in Rome amid concern that the Mediterranean island is "a hotbed of occultism", says the newspaper.

The Church claims the rise in demonic cases is because more people are dabbling in the dark arts – such as black magic, paganism and Ouija boards – with the help of information on the internet.

Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, the archbishop of Madrid, said the Church in Spain has come across many cases that "go beyond the competence of psychologists" and they were occurring with "a striking frequency".

He chose eight priests to undergo special training last May to confront what he described as "an unprecedented rise" in cases of "demonic possession".

It comes four decades after the 1973 film The Exorcist, the American horror film based on the demonic possession of a 12-year-old girl.

The Church says that most people who claim to be possessed by the Devil are suffering from a variety of mental health issues, from paranoia to depression, and are generally advised to seek medical help. But in a few cases, it is judged that the person actually has been taken over by evil spirits, and an exorcism is required.

Last November, Catholic priests from Mexico also told the BBC that there was increased demand for their services. While earlier in the year, Father Gabriele Amorth – an Italian Catholic priest who claims to have carried out more than 160,000 exorcisms – told the Sunday Times he believed all priests should be given the powers to perform exorcism in an attempt to cope with a surge in demand. · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.