Catholic Church-backed organisation to hold special exorcism course as demand rises

A scene from The Exorcist.
A scene from The Exorcist. Photo credit: YouTube

A Vatican-supported organisation is holding a special course on performing exorcisms thanks to an intense rise in demand.

The International Association of Exorcists says it's planning the course due the "pastoral emergency" the increase represents, The Guardian reports.

One priest in Sicily said 500,000 per year are claiming to be possessed. Previous figures show that would represent a tripling of apparently "possessed" people on the island.

There is concern the uptick may not be related to people asking for salvation from a literal demon, but rather mental health issues or identifying as LGBT.

"Some Christians are sometimes treating mental health issues as if everything is spiritual," Ben Ryan, author of a report into exorcism in the UK, told The Guardian.

"So if someone tells a church leader they are suffering from depression, sometimes the response is that everything can be treated with prayer. The extreme end of that is exorcism."

Pope Francis has said a priest is required to put a person in touch with an exorcist should they notice "genuine spiritual disturbances".

A rise in independent exorcism providers may be driving the willingness to up-skill priests, with The Economist finding many providers in Europe offer an exorcism for up to €500.

"Today we are at a stage crucial in history - many Christians no longer believe in [the devil's] existence," Father Cesare Truqui, one of the speakers at the training course told Vatican News.

"Few exorcists are appointed and there are no more young priests willing to learn the doctrine and practice of liberation of souls."

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