The Catholic Church is training more priests to be able to carry out exorcisms – including, apparently, in Malta, 'where a spike in devil-worshipping practices has caused concern among Catholics' – in a bid to address a growth in occult worship, international media are reporting.
According to The Daily Beast, training programmes to train priests seeking to perform exorcisms have been launched in Italy, Spain and Malta.
Fr Vincenzo Taraborelli, a 76-year-old Rome-based priest who has been carrying out exorcisms for the past 50 years and who has trained hundreds of priests to perform the rite, is one of the priests involved in the new training programmes launched in Italy.
His services are in great demand – he performs up to 100 exorcisms in some weeks – even though he concedes that the need for an exorcism is actually very rare.
However, the Catholic Church is also seeking to address quality control and put an end to what Fr Taraborelli describes as the “dangerous” practice of exorcism by untrained novices.
Perhaps the most popular perception of what exorcists do is based on the 1973 horror film The Exorcist, but actual exorcists often emphasise that the rite is not quite as sensational as people may believe.
Fr Taraborelli explains that the church is very clear on the rite, pointing out that the person requesting the exorcism must be seen by medical professionals to ensure that what is perceived to be demonic possession is not mental illness – which may present similar symptoms.
The exorcists must themselves go to confession or otherwise clear their own soul before they officiate over the rite, wearing a purple stole over a simple tunic.
The possessed person then kneels before the priest, who sprinkles holy water on himself, the penitent and any bystanders who may be present. A string of prayers follows, before the exorcist attempts to drive the devil away with a special prayer.
The process may be repeated as often as necessary. Should it work, Fr Taraborelli explains, the newly-liberated person is urged to spend a lot of time in serious prayer, which he compares to taking vitamins after getting rid of a bad bout of flu.