Demon Battlers Descend on Rome for Exorcism Course

Father Elias Rahal, 68, performs exorcism ritual on a Lebanese lady at a church in the district of Mina in the northern port city of Tripoli on April 19, 2018. (Photo by IBRAHIM CHALHOUB / AFP) (Photo credit should read IBRAHIM CHALHOUB/AFP/Getty Images)
IBRAHIM CHALHOUB/AFP/Getty

Would-be expellers of demons have flocked to Rome in droves this week for a course on “exorcism and deliverance prayer,” an interdisciplinary program aimed at battling Satanic forces.

One of the goals of the course is to change the outlook on spiritual healing, which is often viewed with “an attitude of superstition and sensationalism,” according to Father Luis Ramirez, L.C., one of the organizers of the program.

Vatican News reported that the annual event “has been credited as the most effective instrument of the Church to deepen into the many aspects of the demonic: from the anthropological to the social; from the medical to the neuro-scientific.”

This year’s week-long course that began Monday is the 14th annual installment of the program, but this is the first that has brought together members of different Christian denominations to share experiences and insights on dealing with the devil.

Meetings on how to cast out demons will involve Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, Greek Orthodox, and Pentecostal Christians.

“The idea is to help each other, to establish best practices if you will,” said Father Pedro Barrajon, another organizer who has been helping teach the course since its beginning over a decade ago. “The Catholic Church is most associated with exorcisms because of films like The Exorcist and The Rite, but we are not the only church that performs them. Expelling the devil goes back to the earliest origins of the Christian Church.”

Although all Christian denominations have some sort of prayers or rites of deliverance from demonic influence, their approach can vary greatly.

“The Catholic rite is very structured, whereas some of the other churches are more creative, they don’t use a precise format,” Father Barrajon said.

The Rev. Benjamin McEntire, a Protestant cleric from Alaska, was one of the 241 participants from 42 countries attending the conference hosted by the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum.

“I’m here to understand the Catholic perspective. We are fighting the same enemy in the name of the Lord, even if there are some parts of the Anglican Church that have lost belief in Satan,” he said.

According to Father Ramirez, the course emphasizes that victims of spiritual maladies should be helped with all available resources — spiritual, psychological, and medical.

The number of people actually possessed by the devil are very few, he said, and a careful evaluation is essential “to distinguish demonic possession from other conditions, such as alterations from drugs or nervous diseases.”

At the same time, we must be realistic, he said, “without underestimating possible demonological phenomena, because the devil exists and there are real and concrete cases.”

One of the ways that true demonic vexation can be recognized, Father Barrajon added, is through the presence of supernatural phenomena that are inexplicable by natural causes.

“One of the signs of demonic possession is that people speak in languages that they do not know, such as Latin and Hebrew,” said Father Barrajon. “They have supernatural strength and a strong aversion to priests and to sacred objects.”

The annual course fills an important void, Vatican News said, especially when cases of demonic activity are on the rise.

A report earlier this year revealed that Catholic clergy are facing a “mushrooming demand for exorcisms” in the last few decades all across the globe.

“An astonishing number of people undergo deliverance from demonic forces every week, not only in the developing world but also in Britain and the United States,” two university professors declared in a lengthy essay on the subject.

Dr. Kate Kingsbury of the University of Alberta and Dr. Andrew Chesnut of Virginia Commonwealth University said that in the U.S. and Britain, for instance, “parishioners increasingly believe that demons are the cause of their various tribulations.”

In countries like Italy, interest in exorcisms has risen sharply to keep pace with what has been seen as a recent spike in “demonic activity.”

As Breitbart News has reported, requests for exorcists in Italy has tripled in recent years, reaching an annual total of nearly a half million, and other countries have witnessed a similar increase.

Sicilian exorcist Father Benigno Palilla told Vatican Radio in an interview in March 2018 that more and more Italians are engaging in occult activities, which often serve as a gateway to the demonic.

About a quarter of Italy’s adult population regularly visits astrologers, psychics, and tarot card readers, according to the consumer organization Codacons. It is precisely this sort of occult activities, Father Palilla said, that “open the door to the devil and to possession.”

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