Church blames internet for boom in exorcisms
VATICAN CITY: Demand for exorcisms is booming as a result of a decline in Christian faith and the internet providing easy access to black magic, the occult and Satanism, a Vatican conference has been told.
So many people are now asking to be liberated from the Devil’s malign clutches that some Catholic priests have taken to saying prayers of liberation – a first step to exorcism – over the phone, the conference for exorcist priests has heard.
‘‘There are priests who carry out exorcisms on their mobile phones. That’s possible thanks to Jesus,’’ said Cardinal Ernest Simoni, an Albanian who was once tortured and imprisoned by communist authorities but continued to perform frequent exorcisms.
His comments took some experts by surprise, with priests pointing out that conducting an exorcism remotely would not be wise, because people who are possessed often writhe around violently and have to be restrained to stop them harming themselves.
‘‘Priests pray with people on the phone to calm them down, but if you are not there, you cannot control the physical aspects,’’ said Professor Giuseppe Ferrari, one of the event organisers.
More than 250 priests, psychologists theologians, and criminologists from 51 countries gathered at a Catholic university in Rome yesterday for the start of the week-long conference, the only one of its kind in the world.
The concept of demonic possession may be regarded by agnostics and atheists with scepticism, even derision, but it is a subject of the utmost seriousness for the Catholic Church.
This is the 13th time the annual conference has been held at the Regina Apostolorum pontifical university, and the number of participants grows every year.
A belief in black magic and Satan was increasing – and with that, the need for exorcisms, delegates said.
In Italy, it is claimed that over the past decade the number of people asking for exorcisms has tripled to half a million. The country now boasts around 300 exorcist priests, with hundreds more in other parts of the world.
The Vatican insists that every Catholic diocese in the world must have a priest trained as an exorcist.
‘‘Demand is growing, absolutely,’’ said Fr Anthony Barratt, a British priest based in Albany, New York State. ‘‘I think it is partly due to the internet, which makes [Satanism] so accessible. Films and television programmes are also a factor.’’
– Telegraph Group CANADA/CUBA: The Canadian foreign ministry is ordering the families of diplomatic staff in Cuba to return home, amid questions about mysterious health symptoms detected in 10 people who were stationed on the island.
Canadian diplomats will no longer be accompanied by family members in Cuba because of what the ministry yesterday called ‘‘ongoing uncertainty’’ over the cause of the ailments. The spouses, children and parents of diplomats already in Havana will begin leaving immediately.
The move comes after 10 Canadians continue to show unexplained brain symptoms, and after ‘‘medical information raised concerns for a new type of a possible acquired brain injury’’, the ministry said. The symptoms have included dizziness and headaches.
The United States State Department cut staff at its embassy in October because of similar symptoms affecting 24 American diplomats and dependents.
Former US secretary of state Rex Tillerson said the symptoms resulted from ‘‘targeted attacks’’ but it was not known who may have been behind them.
Cuba has repeatedly denied either involvement in or knowledge of any attacks, and has said its own investigation into the illnesses has turned up no evidence of deliberate action.
The US has not accused Cuba of such action but has said Havana holds responsibility nonetheless, arguing that such incidents could not have occurred on the small, communist-run island without the knowledge of Cuban officials.
The Canadian government said the results of an environmental assessment of diplomatic staff quarters in Havana, including tests of air and water quality, did not indicate anything that could point to a cause. –AP