If you happen to be an unemployed priest with an iron spine and a stomach of steel, you may just be in luck.
The Vatican has announced it will be setting up a week-long exorcism training course in Rome next month “to offer a rich reflection and articulation on a topic that is sometimes unspoken and controversial,” according to Sicilian priest and trained exorcist Friar Benigno Palilla. Simply put, the Vatican will be training priests how to rid people of demonic possessions.
Friar Palilla told Vatican Radio the church had seen the demand for exorcism triple in recent years, and that there are currently 500,000 annual cases recorded— and that’s just in Italy. He went on to expound on what is included in the training:
“We touch on the most burning issues. From the sects linked to Satanism to their story of liberation [from] their possession.”
He blames the rise of demons on practices which “open the door to the devil and to possession,” naming fortune tellers and tarot cards as examples. And though he concedes that many reported cases of apparent possession can in fact be attributed to psychological or spiritual issues, he also argues that they must still be investigated using trained professionals.
Friar Palilla is concerned that many priests are inexperienced or unwilling to learn exorcism techniques. Hence, the training.
“A self-taught exorcist certainly meets errors,” he said, warning against amateur exorcists. “I will say more: It would also take a period of apprenticeship, as happens for many professionals.” He stresses the need for open communication regarding this satanic manner. “We priests, very often, do not know how to deal with the concrete cases presented to us. In the preparation of priesthood, we do not talk about these things.”
In 2014, the Vatican gave official backing to the International Association of Exorcists, which made the practice of exorcism a recognized one under canon law. The association, which has around 200 members on six continents, demands approval from senior priests in order to allow an exorcism to take place.
This is unique. According to The Economist, the demand for exorcists has also spiked in France, but as the Catholic Church refused to acknowledge demonic possession or to train their priests in the practice of exorcism, independent contractors have stepped in to get the job done.
Though one might make the case that the Vatican should focus on exorcising its own interior demons before doing anything else.