Vatican to launch new exorcism training course amid soaring demand

The Vatican is launching a new international exorcism training course in response to rising demand for priests skilled in getting rid of demonic possessions.

A week-long course on exorcism is set to be held in April at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum, a Catholic educational institute in the capital of Italy.

The focus of the course is “to offer a rich reflection and articulation on a topic that is sometimes unspoken and controversial,” Italian priest and exorcist Benigno Palilla told Vatican Radio.

"We touch on the most burning issues: from the sects linked to Satanism to the [telling] their story of liberation [from] their possession,” he added.

The course was set up amid the increasing popularity of tarot cards readers and fortune tellers that opened “the door to the devil and to possession,” Palilla said, according to the Newsweek magazine.

He noted that the demand for exorcism services tripled in the last few years, to 500,000 alleged cases in Italy, although most cases of alleged demonic possession were prompted by psychological and spiritual issues.

In France, the demand for exorcists has also soared, but the services were outsourced to “independent operators,” who conduct the exorcism, as the Catholic Church neglected for years the training of priests in the practice despite strong public demand, The Economist reported.

There are roughly 100 exorcists in France, yet most remain inactive.

Palilla warned about using untrained priest for getting rid of demons. “A self-taught exorcist certainly meets errors," he said. "I will say more: it would also take a period of apprenticeship, as happens for many professionals."

In 2014, the Vatican officially recognized exorcism as a practice under canon law.