Young Priests 'Too Scared' To Perform Exorcisms

A priest performs an exorcism rite.Reuters

Priests in Italy are finding it difficult to encourage young clergy to take up the rite of exorcism, one of the country's top practitioners has warned.

"I told the bishop that I can't find anyone willing to do this," 79-year-old Father Vincenzo Taraborelli told the BBC.

"Many of them are scared. Even priests can be scared. It's a difficult life."

Fr Taborelli has been performing exorcisms – the expulsion of evil spirits from a person or place – for almost three decades, and sees up to 30 people a day at his church in Rome.

The Catholic Church downplayed the reality of Satan and demonic forces after the liberalising Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. However, the conservative Pope John Paul II was clear about his belief in the occult and Pope Francis has also reminded Catholics that "Satan is real".

Over in the US, priests who perform exorcists are struggling to keep up with demand. During the last 10 years the number of Roman Catholic priests officially designated as exorcists has quadrupled from 12 to 50, but in an interview with the Daily Telegraph last month, two of them said more and more people are coming to them to perform the rite.

This increased demand could be related to an increase in the number of US films and TV shows dealing with the subject of demonic possession.

Taborelli told the BBC that scepticism about exorcists is understandable, but ill-founded.

"Someone who isn't a believer doesn't believe in the devil either," he said. "But someone who believes knows that the devil exists, you can read it in the gospel. Then you only need to see how the world is nowadays. It has never been this bad. These violence acts are not human. So terrible, like IS."

However, he also says he works alongside medical practitioners to make sure his patients are getting the help they need.

"Before doing exorcisms I urge people to see a psychologist or a psychiatrist, and I ask them to bring me their prognosis," he said. "I'm in touch with many psychologists who send their patients here."