According to recent reports, the number of people in Italy calling on exorcists for assistance to fight demonic activity has tripled, reaching nearly a half million per year.
In a recent interview, Sicilian exorcist Father Benigno Palilla told Vatican Radio 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 these sorts of activities, Father Benigno Palilla said, that “open the door to the devil and to possession.”
Citing experts in the field, Vatican Radio said that some half a million persons request assistance from exorcists each year in Italy. Although many of these face other sorts of psychological afflictions rather than suffering from demonic activity, nonetheless the diabolical phenomenon itself has been “rising sharply.”
The Catholic Church in Sicily has just finished a four-day formation course aimed at preparing priests to deal with spiritual combat involving Satan. “We touch on the most burning issues: from Satanic cults to previously possessed persons who recount the story of their liberation,” said Father Palilla. The priest is a firm believer in ongoing priestly formation as a fundamental weapon in the fight against the Evil One.
“A self-taught exorcist will certainly make mistakes,” he said. “It requires a period of apprenticeship, as happens in many other professions.”
Seminary formation too often skips over important areas, such as how to deal with real cases of possession, the priest asserts.
“We priests frequently don’t know how to address concrete cases that we are faced with,” he said. “In our preparation for the priesthood, these things are not covered, and consequently we don’t know how to evangelize properly. In reality, people possessed by demons are the ‘existential peripheries’ that Pope Francis is pushing us toward.”
Next month the Regina Apostolorum University in Rome will host its annual course on exorcism and demonic activity, featuring Vatican officials, exorcists, psychologists, physicians and other experts as speakers.
The university is a pioneer in such material, Vatican Radio notes, having been the first institution to offer such a program back in 2006. Now its annual courses are always full, drawing between 150 and 200 students, comprising priests, religious sisters, pastoral workers, teachers and doctors.
According to the founder of the program, Father Pedro Barrajon, the exceptional interest in the course reflects a growing awareness of the activity of the devil in the world, and a concern on the part of bishops to have some of their priests specially trained for dealing for this reality.
Father Barrajon told Breitbart News that years ago the devil was downplayed so much that few bothered even to speak of demonic activity. For a while, he said, it was typical to explain away even the many accounts of demonic possession in the gospel as well as the episodes of Jesus driving out demons, “attributing them to the ignorance of the age and a readiness to recur to supernatural causes to explain diseases like epilepsy or psychological disorders.”
While that may be true in certain cases, Barrajon said, “it certainly doesn’t eliminate the clear references to the activity of the devil throughout the gospels,” something that “is generally recognized now by scholars.”
“Jesus obviously believed in the devil,” he said.