According to the Washington
Post, exorcism -- the church rite of expelling evil spirits from
tortured souls -- is making a comeback in Catholic regions of Europe.
About 70 priests serve as trained exorcists in Poland, about double
the number of five years ago. An estimated 300 exorcists are active in
Italy. Many attribute the resurgence to the Vatican's formal and
informal support of the rite.
Up to one German per day undergoes a full
scale exorcism, a priest estimates, giving a figure that has shocked
Hundreds of Germans, tortured by inner voices, are looking for priests
to help free them from what they believe to be the grip of the devil,
according to a radio documentary that has stirred debate about
exorcism in the Catholic Church, the Times Online reports.
"Over the past year alone I have received requests from around
350 people who think they are possessed by an evil spirit," says
Fr Joerg Mueller, who heads a group of priests, doctors and therapists
to deal with the problem.
"Therapy hasn't worked for them;
they want exorcism — a prayer that can free them."
Bavaria based Fr Mueller was talking to a team from WDR, the state
radio network, which was allowed to record extracts from eight
A Polish exorcist, named only as Fr Wiktor, suggested this was only a
fraction of the actual number seeking help.
"I would say that every day at least one person is undergoing a
full scale exorcism," he told WDR.
This has come as a shock to the Catholic Church in Germany, which has
shied away from exorcism since the tragic case of Anneliese Michel in
Ms Michel, 23, from a strongly Catholic Bavarian village, had epilepsy
and suffered from hallucinations. Two priests were authorised to
perform an exorcism. They performed the ritual 67 times until she
died, having starved herself to 31kg.
After her death the priests and her
parents were sentenced to six months suspended jail sentences for not
referring her for medical treatment.
Permission for a full exorcism now has to be granted by a bishop, but
few permits have been given.
Frustrated by the lack of exorcists in their own country, disturbed
Germans are turning to esoteric spiritual healers and priests in
Switzerland and Poland. Andrzej Trojanowski, a Polish priest, even has
plans to set up an exorcism centre in Poczernin, on the Polish-German
"I would say that 90 per cent of those who think they are
posessed by the devil are mentally ill," Fr Mueller said. A large
number of them have suffered sexual abuse as children. Some think that
an exorcism is easier than long years of psychotherapy.
He added: "But about ten percent of the people who approach us
have some sign of demonic possession and then you have to turn to
special, charismatic men and women who have the gift of being able to
feel and recognize if demons have entered someone."
Only a handful qualify for exorcism.