The Vatican is offering a course on exorcism—or casting out demons—this April to teach priests and laypeople how to recognize and fight demonic possession.
Sponsored by the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy and organized by the Sacerdos Institute, the weeklong course titled “Exorcism and Prayer of Liberation” will take place at the European University of Rome from April 13 to 18.
This tenth annual edition of the course will consist in a series of meetings aimed at giving priests, doctors, psychologists, teachers, and pastoral workers essential tools on the subject of exorcism, learning how to handle cases of demonic possession and distinguish them from disturbances of a psychological or medical nature.
Speakers for the course include experts from a number of disciplines: psychologists, medical doctors, priests, lawyers, theologians, and, of course, practicing exorcists.
After the international success of past courses, and following Pope Francis’ recurring warnings on the action of the devil, the course is already fully booked.
One of the organizers of the course, Father Pedro Barrajon, told Breitbart that the course is more timely than ever, given the growth of interest in the occult, which can open the door to serious spiritual problems.
Barrajon said that in today’s very secularized society “there is an increased tendency to open the doors to occultism and esotericism.” Diabolical action, he said, “is favored by magical practices and the use of diviners, who may have a real influence in demonic possession.”
The course will address the topic of exorcism both theologically and scientifically, as well as exploring the danger of cults, magic, the occult, Satanism, and nihilism, especially among young people. It will also underscore the exercise of prudence in evaluating each case, to avoid errors that can lead to problems for all involved.
A recent bizarre case involved a 37-year-old Polish priest named Tomas Wieczorek who performed a mass exorcism on a group of school children at a religious camp in north-western Poland. Some of the children became hysterical, others screamed or broke out in laughter.
“This is the sort of thing that should be avoided at all costs,” Barrajon said.
Whereas “the nature of the topic might lend itself to sensationalism,” Barrajon said, the course approaches the topic from “a sound theology” aimed at deepening “the spiritual basis for the action of angels and demons,” flowing from the action of Jesus Christ himself, who is reported by the gospels as “casting out demons.”
The course also offers perspectives from other sciences such as psychology, the law, and medicine.
The course will end with a panel discussion with exorcists Father Francesco Bamonte, Father François Dermine, Father Cesar Truqui, and Brother Benigno Palilla.
Pope Francis has spoken about the devil on numerous occasions, insisting that “he is not a myth” and that “we have to fight him.” The Pope has also blamed divisions among Christians on the devil’s work. During her journey through history, “the Church is tempted by the devil who tries to divide it,” the Pope said, and unfortunately, “she has been marred by serious and painful divisions.”
The modern world, the Pope has said, “was led to believe that the devil was a myth, a picture, an idea, the idea of evil. But the devil exists, and we have to fight him. These are Saint Paul’s words, not mine!”
“The devil,” the Pope went on, “is a liar, the father of lies.”
According to the Catholic Catechism, “Satan or the devil and the other demons are fallen angels who have freely refused to serve God and his plan” (n. 414).
Francis has also praised the work of exorcists, priests dedicated to the work of deliverance and casting out demons.
In a homily last October, the Pope said that Christians need a “shield of faith” because “the devil doesn’t throw flowers at us” but “flaming arrows” to kill us.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome