Wave of exorcisms 'inspired by Pope's preaching'
Pope Francis has been credited with encouraging a resurgence in faith among rank-and-file Catholics, but his frequent references to the Devil have apparently had an unexpected consequence - a boom in the demand for exorcisms around the world.
Dioceses in Britain, Italy, Spain and elsewhere have noticed a big increase in the number of people claiming to be possessed and have responded by training more priests to perform exorcisms.
A week-long exorcism conference, held this week at the Pontifical University of Regina Apostolorum in Rome and endorsed by the Vatican, is being attended by about 160 Catholic priests from around the world, who insist that demonic possession is very real.
"Pope Francis talks about the Devil all the time and that has certainly raised awareness about exorcisms," Fr Cesare Truqui, a Mexican priest trained as an exorcist, said yesterday. "But all Latin Americans have this sensibility - for them, the existence of the Devil is part of their faith."
In October, the Argentine Pope commended exorcist priests for their fight against "the Devil's works", saying that the Church needed to help "those possessed by evil".
Fr Truqui (47) is the chief exorcist for the diocese of Chur, a city in eastern Switzerland, and claims to have taken part in about 100 exorcisms.
"Some people are mentally ill and do not need exorcism. But others do and there are some classic signs - people who speak in ancient tongues, for instance. Other people have supernatural strength when they are in a state of possession - it might take four men to hold down a slightly built woman.
"In some cases, people are able to levitate."
Mgr Luigi Neri, the archbishop of Ferrara in the northern region of Emilia-Romagna, attributed the growing demand for exorcisms to atheism and consumerism. Gesticulating, the white-haired cleric said prayer was central to the fight against the Devil.
"Evil exists and poisons the human experience," he said. "It is a challenge and a provocation." (© Daily Telegraph, London)