Exorcists in Italy are overwhelmed, with some saying they are seeing dozens of troubling cases every day.
Speaking to researchers at Regina Apostolorum’s 16th annual exorcism course in Rome, the burnt-out priests said they need help.
The course attracted 120 participants, who have been spurred on by Pope Francis, a keen supporter of the practice in the fight against evil spirits.
Exorcists at the conference, which attempted to offer support, said they were in need of psychologists to help them determine who was actually possessed and who needed clinical support.
And some shared their own experience of dealing with the increased requirement for spiritual intervention.
According to The Times, Father Giuseppe Bernardi told researchers that he had conducted a nine-hour exorcism on a woman who had screamed abuse in Latin and assaulted monks.
The woman’s dad thought she had been suffering form a ‘psychiatric problem’, while her mother took the view that she had in fact been taken over by a ‘demonic influence’.
And while Father Bernadi revealed that he sought the help of a psychologist to evaluate the woman, he said there was no support from the church to do so.
Attendees at the conference claimed there were several ways of determining whether a case really required an exorcism.
Other exorcists said they had also struggled to get help from the clergy over the course of the pandemic, and were forced to conduct exorcisms on people who had tested positive for Covid.
And then there is the sheer amount of exorcisms priests say they are having to do.
One of the researchers, Giuseppe Frau said: “Some said they were seeing 30 to 50 cases a day.”
According to the study, there were 290 exorcists in Italy, 37 in Spain and 28 in the UK and Ireland.
Researcher Luis Santamaria del Rio said: “Many of the potentially possessed people they see in Spain have spent time with New Age, spiritual or meditation groups.”
Father Pedro Barrajon, a Spanish priest and theology professor, said the course was vital in giving exorcists the tools they desperately need to combat demonic forces.
He said: “Costa Rica didn’t have a single exorcist and last year they named their first one. Manila in the Philippines now have a dedicated office and team.
“It used to be like the Wild West out there, but the quality is going up and we are seeing more co-operation with psychologists. Exorcism always arouses interest because of films about it, but the truth is these priests need to be trained.”