Demand for exorcists has prompted the Vatican to offer its first official course in exorcism.
Paolo Scarafoni, a priest at Regina Apostolorum, the Vatican’s university, told Italian news agency ANSA the institution will offer a new course in exorcism to help ease the shortage of priests who are trained to administer the appropriate rites. “Priests are being bombarded with requests [for exorcisms],” he said.
Scarafoni teaches priests how to recognise and expel Satan. He told the agency that Satanic cults were making inroads in Italian society.
His comments followed an interview with Father Gabriele Amorth, dubbed the Church’s ‘exorcist-in-chief’, in the Vatican’s online news service Petrus, in which he said that more priests were to be trained in exorcism.
“Thanks be to God we have a Pope who has decided to fight the Devil head on,” Amorth said. “Too many bishops are not taking this seriously. You have to hunt high and low for a properly trained exorcist.”
Regina Apostolorum provides 10-week courses for priests who want to learn how to conduct exorcisms. It includes sessions on rites, how to talk to the Devil, and how to recognise the tricks he uses.
Students also attend psychology classes to help them distinguish between genuine cases of possession and mental illnesses such as schizophrenia. Special prayers are offered to help cure the afflicted.
However, the Vatican scotched reports published worldwide that it planned to order local bishops to install exorcists in their dioceses.
“Pope Benedict XVI has no intention of ordering local bishops to bring in garrisons of exorcists to fight demonic possession,” said Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardo.