This week, the Vatican endorsed, annual “Course on Exorcism and Prayers of Liberation” is taking place in Rome, Italy.
The course, now in its tenth year, is sponsored by the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy, the church department that oversees matters involving priests. The course is designed to bring greater awareness to the topics of exorcism and possession through the lens of Catholic belief. Specifically, the course hopes to help priest and interested parties recognize the difference between medical and psychological conditions, and what the church considers actual demonic possession.To that end, the week of lectures include topics such as:
Social dimensions of SatanismLegal dimensions and the Ministry of an Exorcist.
There’s much more being covered, but it’s clear that the congress is serious about approaching the idea of possession and exorcism from as many directions as it can within the scope of its traditions.
There’s a lot of interest in the course this year, but much of that can be attributed to the fact that numerous reports claim that the church is increasing the number of trained exorcist among its clergy.
Officially, the Vatican states that genuine demonic possessions are rare. However, recently, Pope Francis urged dioceses to ensure that they follow Catholic law and maintain at least one properly trained exorcist.Some take this as a mixed message, but the current pope has made no secret of the fact that he believes that the devil actually exists and is not a myth. In fact, his frequent comments have led to what some call the “Pope Francis effect,” leading to more attention on possessions, exorcisms and a focus on older church concepts of the devil and evil.
Swiss exorcist, Father Cesare Truqui told “The Independent” that the course was important for priest as well as laypeople because it hones awareness of what signs to look for. Additionally, he reported that dioceses in Italy and beyond have been experiencing a surge in reports of the symptoms of possession. Father Cesare himself reports that he has witnessed sings of possession including people speaking in tongues and displaying inhuman strength including one “small woman, who could not be pinned down by three strong men.”In 2012, news emerged that the diocese of Milan, the largest in the world, had installed an “exorcism hotline” to manage the large number of possession related reports coming in. Milan’s chief exorcist, Monsignor Angelo Mascheroni, increased the number of trained exorcist in his diocese from six to twelve, stating that the number of calls for help dealing with the demonic had increased 100 percent over the last 15 years.
The diocese of Rome also recently doubled its team of resident exorcists from five to ten and reports that a full third of phone calls they receive relate to request for exorcisms.While the church remains adamant that only officially trained Catholic priests may perform exorcisms, plenty of other religious and spiritual traditions carry out the practice. They too report a growing number of people describing problems with what they believe to be demonic activity.
It’s interesting to consider the church’s comments regarding the rise of possession related cases in conjunction with the general rise in reports of paranormal incidents over the last ten to fifteen years. While those who are more devout in their religious beliefs may report strange activity as possibly demonic, others may simply believe that the activity is the result of ghosts or other active spirits that are not evil. Of note though, are the growing numbers of people who do not identify themselves has strongly religious, yet still equate paranormal activity to something demonic.The barrage of demon related topics in popular entertainment is likely a factor too. Over 40 years ago, when the Exorcist hit the movie screens, reports of possession rose dramatically. In recent years, possession has been a popular subject of horror movies and television shows. But is media influence the sole reason for the increase of reports?
Many religious groups blame the increase on the rise of interest in occult topics which, it claims, opens a door to the demonic. Paranormal investigators site a wide range of factors that could be causing the increase, including everything from people wanting attention, to the modern level of comfort in opening up about strange activity.Whether an investigator believes in the demonic or not, it certainly must be considered a factor when approaching cases. It’s important to determine if the person reporting the activity believes they are dealing with something demonic due to their religious background, or, due to undue influence from the mainstream media.
Either way, the current increase of incidents of paranormal activity are not likely to fade away any time soon, so we can expect further demonic related reports. Whether it’s due to media influence, or whether something darker and more sinister is at work, only time and further research will tell.