A dramatic increase in occult activity, particularly among youth, has inspired more than 160 Catholic priests, deacons and laity to attend a week-long conference on exorcism this week at the Pontifical University of Regina Apostolorum in Rome.
The Telegraph is reporting on the Vatican-endorsed conference which will include lectures on subjects such as “Occultism, black magic and Satanism”, “Angels and demons in Holy Scripture” and “Criminal Aspects of Satanism”.
The need for the conference is based upon an upsurge in occult activity around the world along with an increased interest among Christians in learning more about Satan.
“Until a few years ago, a significant number of people in the Church didn’t believe in the Devil, but people are now going back to the Scriptures,” said a British exorcist who asked not to be named. “Pope Francis has given a certain amount of encouragement to that. A few years ago at least half the dioceses in England and Wales did not have an exorcist. Now, pretty much all of them do.”
Known as the “Pope Francis effect”, the pontiffs frequent reference to Satan is apparently inspiring Catholics to take the devil more seriously.
“The Argentinian pontiff’s fire-and-brimstone language and frequent references to the Devil have helped propel belief in Beelzebub back into the mainstream of the Catholic Church, where once it was an embarrassment,” the Telegraph reports.
But this is about more than just a desire to peak people’s interest. There is a real and growing need for exorcists around the world which has caused Francis to urge all dioceses to have at least one trained exorcist on hand.
However, in many cases, one exorcist isn’t enough. For instance an increase in demand for exorcism in the diocese of Milan warranted an increase from five to 12 exorcists to help handle all the cases of suspected possession. Likewise, the diocese of Rome, where a third of its telephone calls are related to requests for exorcisms, has doubled its number of exorcists from five to 10.
What is causing this upsurge in demonic activity?
Priests at the conference are blaming everything from secularism to pornography, television and drug-taking to the increased dabbling in occult activity that is resulting in a rise in the number of demonic possessions.
Hollywood is also to blame for its recent movies such as Twilight which glamorize vampirism and occult activity, thus sparking interest in young people in the dark arts.
Rome’s chief exorcist, Father Gabriele Amorth, says the sex abuse scandals in the Roman Catholic Church were proof that “the Devil is at work inside the Vatican”. He also condemned fantasy novels such as Harry Potter and the so-called innocent practice of yoga, which he claims “leads to evil just like reading Harry Potter”.
Gay rights and IVF fertility treatment are also seen as ways in which the devil is becoming more active in the everyday life of Christians.
This week’s course will enable the faithful to acquire the highly specialized skills they need to fight evil in the world. First and foremost among those skills will be the ability to discern authentic demonic possession from psychiatric problems.
Father Truqui, 47, chief exorcist for the diocese of Chur, Switzerland, claims to have taken part in around 100 exorcisms and knows how to tell the difference.
“Some people are mentally ill and do not need exorcism,” Father Truqui said. “But others do and there are some classic signs – people who speak in ancient tongues, for instance. Other people have supernatural strength when they are in a state of possession – it might take four men to hold down a slightly-built woman. In some cases, people are able to levitate.”
According to the Guardian, Professor Giuseppe Ferrari gave delegates at the course a checklist for improving the effectiveness of exorcisms:
* Exorcisms should only be carried out by properly trained priests, licensed to do so by the diocese in which they work. Priests can not perform exorcisms in different dioceses without special permission.
* Lay people should never perform exorcisms, say the special prayers of liberation, nor bless or touch a possessed person.
* Exorcists should defer to qualified doctors or psychiatrists, though priests may help by praying.
* Priests should not perform the Eucharist during an attempt to exorcise somebody because that can make the process “too Hollywood”.
* Priests must welcome and pay heed to anyone who reports that a demonic possession may have taken place.
* Exorcists should consider the possibility that symptoms may be due to known medical conditions and seek appropriate professional advice if they suspect this to be the case.
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