The Vatican is set to organise a crash course in exorcism for priests next month as members of the church believe that demands for deliverance from demonic possession have increased across the world, The Guardianreported.
According to the International Association of Exorcists, the increase in demand for performing exorcisms is a ‘pastoral emergency’. The association represents more than 200 Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox priests.
The UK-based publication has cited a priest from Italy as saying that the people who claim that they are ‘possessed’ has increased almost three times to 500,000 a year. Exorcisms have also been reported as a ‘booming industry’ in the United Kingdom, according to the findings of a prominent Christian think tank.
Critics of the Vatican believe that exorcisms are a form of spiritual abuse that target people with mental health issues and psychiatric problems, blaming ‘demonic possession’ for their troubles.
The training course will be organised at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum in Rome between 16-21 April.
“The fight against the evil one started at the origin of the world, and is destined to last until the end of the world,” Cesare Truqui told Vatican News.
“But today we are at a stage crucial in history: many Christians no longer believe in [the devil’s] existence, few exorcists are appointed and there are no more young priests willing to learn the doctrine and practice of liberation of souls.”
Pope Francis has said if a priest becomes aware of “genuine spiritual disturbances … he must not hesitate to refer the issue to those who, in the diocese, are charged with this delicate and necessary ministry, namely, exorcists”.
The Church of England offers guidelines on deliverance which say that for some people “going through times of suffering and anxiety, or when distressed by what seem to be continuing experiences of evil within or around them … it may be right to ask for God’s saving help through the church’s deliverance ministry”.
The guidelines, which were updated in 2012, say caution must be exercised and “the ministry of exorcism and deliverance may only be exercised by a priest authorised by the diocesan bishop”.
Such priests should be trained in deliverance and should not minister alone. They should be covered by adequate insurance, the document says.