Burnt-out Catholic exorcists complain they face long lines of 'possessed' people, and little support from bishops

A priest holding a metal cross.
A priest holding a metal cross.Getty Images
  • A Vatican-approved religious university in Rome held an exorcism course with 120 participants.

  • They said they needed more help distinguishing being possessed from mental illness, per The Times.

  • Pope Francis has given speeches about helping "those possessed by evil," the report said.

A survey from a Vatican-approved religious university in Rome found that Catholic exorcists feel overworked and undersupported by bishops, according to The Times of London.

Italian exorcists spoke to researchers at Regina Apostolorum's 16th annual exorcism course in Rome, attended by 120 participants, The Times reported.

The course attracted a significant crowd thanks to Pope Francis's support of exorcism, the paper said. He has previously spoken about helping those who are "possessed by evil," per The Times, and made exorcism an official Catholic practice, according to the Independent.

The conference's exorcists said that they needed more support from psychologists to determine whether people are mentally unstable or demonically possessed, The Times reported.

Father Giuseppe Bernardi claimed to have performed a nine-hour exorcism on a woman who hurled abuse in Latin and assaulted monks, the newspaper said.

The woman's father thought she was suffering from "a psychiatric problem," reported the Journal of Vicenza. But the mother, and later Bernardi, believed she was possessed by a "demonic influence."

Bernardi said he had to seek help from psychologists to determine whether she was disturbed or possessed but did so without the help of the church, per The Times.

The lack of support from bishops is a grievance echoed by other surveyed exorcists, The Times said. They complained about receiving little help in exorcising the long lines of Catholics claiming satanic possession.

Exorcists also said they had been tasked with conducting exorcisms on people with COVID-19, The Times reported.

Participants at the conference claimed that demonic possession could be recognized by unusual physical strength, vomiting, or a sudden ability to speak Latin, Hebrew, or Aramaic.

Italy has 290 exorcists, and there were 37 in Spain, the survey found. "Many of the potentially possessed people they see in Spain have spent time with New Age, spiritual or meditation groups," researchers said.

In the UK and Ireland, there were 28 working exorcists, and in Manila, the Philippines, there was a "dedicated office and team."

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