The Catholic Church is reportedly seeing a resurgence of interest in the age-old rite of exorcisms -- and has acted, of late, to bolster the ranks of priests officially qualified to perform them.
The Telegraph of England cites considerable anecdotal evidence that dioceses across Italy and Spain are currently authorizing a greater number of priests to learn how to expel evil, and specifically the devil, from a possessed individual. The New York Times previously wrote of the same phenomenon in the U.S.
Of late, the diocese of Milan nominated seven priests to become exorcists, while the bishop of Naples similarly appointed three new priests to perform the rite, and Catholic authorities in Sardinia recently dispatched three other priests to undergo exorcism training in Rome, according to The Telegraph.
Meanwhile, Antonio Maria Rouco, the archbishop of Madrid, reportedly selected eight Spanish prelates in May to learn how to administer exorcisms, citing an “unprecedented rise,” in demand for the practice among the faithful.
All of this comes on the heels of a curious event in St. Peter’s Square concerning the still-new Pope Francis that occurred in May and is still the object of much speculation among the church watchers.
The Telegraph writes that television images of the Mass officiated by Pope Francis shows him, “laying his hands on a wheelchair-bound man, who appears to go into convulsions with his mouth open before slumping down into his chair.”
A Vatican spokesman reportedly denied Francis was ridding the man of evil after the fact, but The Telegraph writes the denial was so “ambivalently-worded,” that it led many to believe he actually had done so.
The paper also cited numerous instances in which the pope has made reference to the devil in his homilies.
Similarly, The New York Times reported in 2011 that 66 American priests and 56 bishops attended a conference held late in the year in Baltimore to prepare them to respond to an uptick in demand for exorcisms among the parishioners in the U.S.
The goal of the summit was reportedly to ensure that each American diocese lays claim to at least one priest capable of screening the increased number of requests for the rite.
“Not everyone who thinks they need an exorcism actually does need one,” Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield, Ill., the conference’s organizer, told The Times at that juncture in 2011. “It’s rare, it’s extraordinary; so the use of exorcism is also rare and extraordinary. But we have to be prepared.”