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COVID-19 pandemic, lockdowns led to spike in calls for exorcisms: priest

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An Italian Catholic priest who is a trained exorcist said the demand for exorcism has risen as the pandemic and ongoing lockdowns have “made people more vulnerable to the idea that Satan or some evil entity has taken over their lives.”

“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,” Fr. Gian Matter Roggio said at an international conference of exorcist priests in Rome, The Telegraph reported.

“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,” he added.

Describing the effects of possession, the priest was quoted as saying: “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. 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.”

Professor Giuseppe Ferrari, one of the organizers of the conference, cited additional reasons for the increase in the demand for exorcisms.

“Young people are being attracted to exploring witchcraft, vampirism, black magic and the occult by the mass media. It’s a phenomenon that is growing and it is really worrying,” he was quoted as saying.

Commenting on Rogglo’s statement, Catholic Online said his “explanation makes sense.”

“Satan and his demons prey upon people when they are most vulnerable,” the publication said.

“Those facing crisis, people who are desperate, are more likely to engage in behaviors that facilitate demonic possession. Those behaviors include sinful activities, including engaging in vices and dabbling in the occult. While many people turn to their faith in times of need, some turn away, blaming God for their difficulties. When some people realize their mistake, it can already be too late. The family and Church must intervene to investigate and when appropriate, to perform an exorcism.”

Catholic Online clarified that not all suspected cases of demonic possession are genuine, saying mental illness could be confused with possession. “This is why many exorcists work with doctors and mental health professionals to provide people with the help they need. However, demonic possession is real, and in such cases an exorcism is warranted.”

Catholic law allows priests who've received permission from their bishops to carry out an exorcism, but only after proper training.

Two of the United States' most active exorcists said in 2016 that there was a growing demand for their services as a result of more unchurched Americans seeking help with demonic oppression, possession and other dark spiritual activity.

“We’re gaining all sorts of knowledge, but there's still that emptiness within us that is being filled with addictive behavior such as drugs and pornography,” Fr. Vincent Lampert of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis said at the time.

The first official English-language translation of a ritual book on exorcisms was released by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2017, detailing practices that get rid of demons and prayers against the "powers of darkness.”

“Given that there's less facility in Latin than there used to be, even among priests, it opens the door to more priests to do this. Until now, not only did the priest have to be wise and holy, but he also had to have strong facility in Latin,” Fr. Andrew Menke, executive director of the USCCB's Secretariat of Divine Worship, told Catholic News Service at the time.

“It makes it easier for a priest who might otherwise be a good exorcist but who would be intimidated by a requirement to use a Latin text. Having it available in the vernacular means he can concentrate on prayer and on the ritual, without needing to worry about working in another language,” he added.

The ritual book, titled Exorcisms and Related Supplications, was made available online on the USCCB website.

"This small pocket-sized book will assist the Christian faithful in their struggle against the infernal enemy. It is a powerful treasury of prayers of praise and supplication to Almighty God and prayers invoking the intercession of the saints," a description on the site read.

The book includes prayers to God for protections, invocations to the Holy Trinity and to Jesus Christ, as well as to the Virgin Mary and the Archangel Michael.

"Prayers Against the Powers of Darkness contains the complete text of 'Supplications Which May Be Used by the Faithful Privately in Their Struggle Against the Powers of Darkness,' which is Appendix II of Exorcisms and Related Supplications, the ritual book used by exorcists," it adds.

The original Latin version of the book stems from the rite revised following the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s.

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