The ninth annual conference on exorcism, titled, Exorcism and Prayer for Liberation, wrapped up on May 10 in Italy. Italian newspaper, Gazzetta del Sud, reports there were 200 participants from 33 countries attending events from Rome to Bologna. The Vatican-sponsored conference touched on the resurgence of mystical rites in the Catholic Church and on the renewed interest in exorcisms.
Father Cesare Truqui, an exorcist from the Legionaries of Christ, spoke of the conference to Vatican Radio saying, "It's devoted mostly to priests who are the first to learn the ministry of exorcism, but not only to them. A priest is usually side by side with a group of laypeople who help. They can include psychologists, psychiatrists or doctors, but also regular people like professionals and housekeepers, even during preliminary consultations to see if it's indeed a case of possession or not.” He went on to say, “Exploring the theme of demonic possession does not mean causing general paranoia, but to creating awareness of the existence of the devil and of the possibility of possession...You can fight it with God, with prayer, with Marian devotion."
Referring to Pope Francis’ April 11 homily where the Pontiff admonished the faithful to ‘learn to fight the devil...who exists even in the 21st century’, Truqui noted, "The pope reminds us that speaking of demons doesn't mean creating a new theology outside the Gospels, but rather staying within Jesus Christ's teachings." A month after this homily, it appeared as if the Pope actually performed an exorcism in St Peter's Square on Pentecost Sunday. The Pontiff placed his hands on a man's head while reciting a prayer. (See video here.) The Vatican stated that Francis “did not intend to perform an exorcism."
Vatican officials say there is a resurgence of mystical rites in the church, including exorcism. An Exorcism is the ritual of evicting demons from a living being. Cardinals in Milan, Turin, and Madrid, have expanded the number of exorcists in their dioceses to cope with what is being categorized as surge in demonic possession.
Vatican insiders say Pope Francis has dwelled far more on Satan in sermons than his predecessors and he has also sought to revive the Devil’s image as a supernatural entity with all the forces of evil at his command. Last month during Mass at the Vatican’s chapel in St. Martha’s House, the Pope warned those present not to be fooled by the face of Satan hiding in the modern world, stating, “Look out because the Devil is present.”
The church has always declared the existence of the Devil. But in recent decades, Evil became less the wicked plan of a Supernatural enemy and morphed into the consequences of mankind’s free will. Francis comes from Latin America, a place where mystical views of Satan are stronger than elsewhere in the world. Vito Mancuso, a Catholic theologian and writer unsure of this new direction fears, “He is opening the door to superstition.”
Rev. Gabriele Amorth, an 89-year-old priest and exorcist countered this statement saying, “The sad truth is that there are many bishops and priests in our church who do not really believe in the Devil. I believe Pope Francis is speaking to them. Because when you don’t believe, the Devil wins.” Amorth admired Francis for embracing the biblical notion of the Devil as the personified overlord of Evil and its realm.
Antonella, a woman who has undergone the rite of Exorcism with Rev. Amorth had this to say, “The Devil exists…and I think Pope Francis is telling us it’s okay to believe.” Writer Anthony Faiola seems to share her feelings saying, “Pope Francis never stops talking about the Devil; it’s constant. And Francis isn’t preaching about the metaphorical devil of temptation and evil and bad decisions, but a supernatural entity engaged in guerrilla warfare against the church and the faithful.”
There were a lot of young priests and nuns at the conference, especially from Africa and Latin America, and they are very keen on pursuing vocations in exorcism. Though not officially exorcists yet, most have had some observational experience with exorcisms from within their own dioceses and are now seeking further education in such matters.
It is an incredibly hard thing to get an appointment as an exorcist in the Catholic Church. There are bishops out there that do not personally believe in demons, though officially they must. The bishop is the governing authority for appointing exorcists. Without this appointment the exorcist is not considered official. Currently there are only about 500 to 600 exorcists worldwide, an extremely low number considering the size of the Catholic Church. Every day dioceses are increasing their requests to up that number.