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Church responding to growing demand for exorcists

Internet helping Satanism spread, warns Vatican expert

04 April, 15:17
Church responding to growing demand for exorcists

(ANSA) - Rome - The Catholic clergy is responding to a rising demand for exorcists as Satanism and the occult gain adepts, a top Church expert has told ANSA.

''There is a revival,'' Don Gabriele Nanni, a former exorcist who was one of the speakers at a recent course on the subject at the Vatican's Regina Apostolorum university in Rome, told ANSA.

''I note greater interest and openness to it from many young priests,'' added Nanni, who is now consultor to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

''It seems the period in the (1960s and 70s) when the devil was seen more as a metaphor of evil than a perverse and perverting presence has passed''.

The Catholic Church says Devil worship groups and occult practices are now so common that the services of exorcists are being sought more and more frequently, while stressing that very few of the people said to be possessed by Satan actually were.

In theory, all priests can perform an exorcism, a rite involving a series of gestures and prayers to invoke the power of God and stop the 'demon' influencing its possessed victim.

In 2008, however, a leading Vatican official, Bishop Gianfranco Girotti of the Apostolic Penitentiary, told parish priests to call a specialist exorcist when faced with a member of their flock who is possessed.

''The devil's ordinary business is the incessant temptation to evil,'' explained Nanni.

''The extraordinary activity is when the demon in spirit attaches himself to a person in a much closer way and penetrates them through their body acquiring a power and determination that is much more effective than ordinary temptation''. An exorcist should intervene, Nanni said, when ''the moral certainty has been reached that the person is possessed'' shown by phenomena ''of a certain importance, such as changes in the body or in the voice''. Other signs that experts look out for are an ability to speak languages that the possessed person does not know and an awareness of hidden or distant objects.

Satanism - in which followers hold pagan and occult rites to worship the Devil - is different to a person being possessed directly by the Devil's influence, but the Vatican believes there is a strong link between the two.

Apart from offering a 'doorway' to the Devil, Catholic authorities note that Satanism and related trends generally promote anti-social or criminal behaviour.

They say there are many examples of this, including three ritual murders carried out between 1990 and 2004 by the Beasts of Satan cult that shocked the Italian public. ''The number of cases of total possession are more limited, but we must be on guard because occult and Satanist practices are spreading a great deal, in part with the help of the Internet and new technologies that make it easier to access these rituals,'' said Nanni.

''That's why many people come under attack from the Devil, even if they are not totally possessed''.