ROME – With reported demonic possessions on the rise in Italy, the Vatican is hosting a week-long training to better prepare exorcists for ministry. Catholic leaders have said that the country needs more exorcists, and better training.
“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,” said one of the event’s speakers, exorcist Father Cesare Truqui, according to Vatican News.
An exorcism course will be held at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum in Rome from April 16-21. The training will focus on exorcism and the prayer of liberation, a prayer commonly used for deliverance from possession.
The event “is to offer a rich reflection and articulated on a topic that is sometimes unspoken and controversial,” Father Benigno Palilla, an exorcist from Sicily, told Vatican Radio on February 22.
Palilla told Vatican Radio that there are 500,000 alleged cases of demonic possession or activity in Italy annually.
He said demonic possession claims have tripled in recent years and attributed the rise in demonic activity to an increased use of fortune tellers and tarot cards.
He also said that many alleged possessions are actually psychological issues, highlighting the need for well-trained and discerning exorcists.
Palilla said those facing the demonic are in need of the prayers of all Catholics.
“The demoniacs are the existential peripheries to which Pope Francis drives us. They are people who suffer a lot and, unfortunately, are not included in the registry of the Church,” he said.
Palilla said there is a lack of formation in the church to prepare priests in this essential ministry.
“We priests, very often, do not know how to deal with the concrete cases presented to us: in the preparation for the priesthood, we do not talk about these things. And, consequently, a true evangelization is lacking.”
This has to be overcome by more than just an increase in available priests appointed by the bishops, he said, but must have an increase in exorcism apprentice programs.
“A self-taught exorcist certainly makes errors. I will say more: It would also take a period of apprenticeship, as happens for many professionals.”