Exorcism by cellphone: Beating the devil in 21st century

Apart from sessions with practising exorcists, the some 35 lessons and lectures include sessions with theologians, psychologists, criminologists. Photograph:( Reuters )

Reuters Rome, Metropolitan City of Rome, Italy Apr 16, 2018, 07.02 PM (IST)

The devil got his due on Monday as a week-long course on exorcism - including by cellphone - got under way at a Catholic university amid signs that the number of demonic possessions is on the rise.

About 200 aspiring exorcists or others just curious about the snare of the devil gathered with experts for lectures and lessons on topics such as discerning between possession and mental illness, witchcraft in Africa, and the ABC's of casting out the demon.

Cardinal Ernest Simoni, 89, of Albania, quickly piqued the interest of participants in first session at when he said that he had performed exorcisms via cellphone.

"They call me and we speak and like this," Simoni said after his mentioning the cellphone technique in his formal address.

Speaking in a calm, grandfatherly, what's-the-big-deal tone of voice, he said he read the prayers of exorcism in Latin over the phone, just as he would if he were performing the detailed rite in person.

Although no official figures are available, Church officials say the number of demonic possessions is on the rise.

Professor Giuseppe Ferrari, one of the organisers of the "Course on Exorcism and the Prayer of Liberation", held at the Vatican-approved Pontifical Regina Apostolorum University said the number of exorcisms was definitely increasing over the years.

Apart from sessions with practising exorcists, the some 35 lessons and lectures include sessions with theologians, psychologists, criminologists, and Church historians.

Most of the participants in the course were priests. Only priests can perform exorcisms and only after their bishops give them permission.

Those who take the course are given a certificate but Ferrari stressed that does not entitle them to perform exorcism.

Lay Catholics, including women, can be what a course entry called "auxiliary exorcists," meaning they can be present at the rite, pray and give moral support to the priest casting out the demon.