Pandemic driving up demand for exorcisms - Catholic priest

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A Catholic priest says the pandemic is behind a rise in people asking for exorcisms.

Italian priest Father Gian Matteo Roggio claimed some people believe a "malign force" to be behind the pandemic and that these feelings are particularly strong among those who have suffered financial hardship or mental health issues because of Covid-19.

"We have seen an increase in the request for exorcisms because the pandemic has made people more vulnerable to the idea that Satan or some evil entity has taken over their lives," he told The Telegraph.

"People have fallen into poverty, they found themselves suffering from anxiety and depression. They feel that their lives are no longer in their own hands but in the hands of a malign force. It's a big crisis." 

Fr Roggio is one of the speakers at a training course on exorcism and liberation prayer taking place this week at the Vatican-affiliated educational institute, the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum.

The course is held each year and offers training in deliverance for both priests and the laity. 

Sessions this year are reported to be on "Exorcism in the context of Afro-Brazilian magical rites" and "The symbolism of satanic and occult rituals". 

One of the organisers, Father Luis Ramirez, agreed that demand has risen since the outbreak of Covid-19.

"During the pandemic, priests around the world have had more requests for psychiatric help from parishioners," he said. 

At one of the conference lectures, Fr Roggio described some of the dramatic changes in people suffering from demonic possession.

"People speak languages they have never spoken before, even ancient tongues like Aramaic, Latin, Greek and Hebrew. They're able to levitate off the ground or they vomit objects like nails and pieces of glass," he said.

"There are people whose voices change completely – a woman might start speaking like a man. Some develop superhuman strength and it takes four or five people to restrain them." 

Earlier this year, the deliverance ministry of the Baptist Union of Great Britain warned people against contacting the dead over fears that more people are turning to spiritualism to help them cope with the loss of loved ones during the pandemic. 

Rev Jayne Irlam, of the Baptist Deliverance Study Group, said she had been contacted by people looking for help to be "set free from some horrific consequences of becoming involved in spiritualism."

"If people saw the bondage to spiritualism we have seen, they would have nothing to do with it," she said.