Organized by the Pontifical Athenaeum Apostolorum, an educational institute of the Catholic Church in Rome, the course, taking place between the capital and Bologna, aims to “raise awareness of the devil’s existence and the possibility for possession”, rather than stir up paranoia, Father Cesare Truqui, a top exorcist, told Vatican Radio.
“Having this knowledge helps to establish a balance. We understand that it [the devil’s possession] happens rarely, but when it does, its influence can be fought with God and by prayer and devotion.”
He added that the event, which wraps up on Saturday, is open to all, “even housewives”.
“A priest exorcist is usually accompanied by a number of laypeople, who assist him in carrying out his mission…either psychologists or doctors, but also normal people like professionals or housewives.”
The assistants play an important role in establishing whether a person is possessed by the devil and then “curing the discerning spirit”, he continued.
A report in La Repubblica late last year said that dioceses across Italy were boosting the number of priests trained in exorcism due to a rise in the number of demonic cases.
Father Franceso Bamonte, the president of the Italy-based International Association of Exorcists, told the newspaper that the rising demand is a result of more people subscribing to occultism, with the 250 or so exorcists in Italy “often unable to handle the enormous number of requests for help”.
Many people turn to exorcists for help with personal problems, either involving their family or work, Father Vincenzo Taraborelli, an exorcist in Rome, also told the newspaper.
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He said he sees dozens of people a day.
"Priests don't have time to comfort and listen to them. So they come to me. They knock at my door seeking a blessing, or help with their suffering," he said.