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ROME (ChurchMilitant.com) - The need for exorcisms in Italy has skyrocketed, and the Vatican is trying to respond.
A week-long training conference for priests about exorcism is on the calendar for later this year. It will last from April 16–21 at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum in Rome.
Some exorcism experts, according to Vatican News, say the number of requests for exorcism in Italy is over 500,000 annually. According to some estimates, the demand in Italy has been at this level since 2016 — about triple what it was in previous years.
Father Benigno Palilla, a Franciscan friar and exorcist in the Sicilian town of Palermo, told the press that the purpose of the upcoming exorcism conference in Rome is "to offer a rich reflection and articulation on a topic that is sometimes unspoken and controversial."
The interviewer noted that some requests for exorcism are really based on natural causes, such as psychological disorders. Before performing the Rite of Exorcism, there is a sort of screening process, so to speak, to make sure the person in question is indeed suffering from something supernatural.
The Franciscan priest affirmed that the increased demand is mainly due to an increased interest in the occult, he said, "Because the amount of people has grown that are ready to go to the wizards, the sorcerer who reads the cards and tarot cards. Doing so opens the door to the devil and to possession."
Father Palilla was involved in a recent four-day conference on exorcism in Palermo that had the sponsorship of the Sicilian bishops' conference.
Speaking with Vatican News in Italian, Fr. Palilla reasoned, "After all, 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."
In the interview piece published February 22, Fr. Palilla lamented the lack of solid training in exorcism at modern-day seminaries. "We priests," he claimed, "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."
Father Palilla also expressed concern about priests who try to perform an exorcism without proper training. He went on to warn of fake exorcists who are not even priests and who sometimes use superstitions and occult practices — the very things which often cause demonic possession.
Among the planned speakers for the international conference in April will be Fr. Cesare Truqui, a pupil of the late Fr. Gabriele Amorth, chief exorcist of Rome. Father Amorth passed away in September 2016 at the age of 91.
He had been a priest for over 60 years. In 1990, Fr. Amorth founded the International Association of Exorcists.
The now-deceased exorcist once said during an interview, "The Devil is gaining ground. We are living in an age when faith is diminishing. If you abandon God, the Devil will take His place."