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Priests are performing exorcisms over the phone, cardinal claims

Cardinal Ernest Simoni (Getty Images)

Priests have been carrying out exorcisms over the phone as demand continues to rise, a Cardinal has said.

Speaking at the Vatican’s annual exorcist training conference in Rome, Cardinal Ernest Simoni said priests are delivering prayers of liberation, part of the exorcism ritual, remotely.

“There are priests who carry out exorcisms on their mobile phones. That’s possible thanks to Jesus,” he said.

However, some warned that the practice was not wise, as people who are possessed often writhe around violently and have to be restrained during exorcisms.

Professor Giuseppe Ferrari said: “Priests pray with people on the phone to calm them down, but if you are not there you cannot control the physical aspects. Some exorcists say it is effective. Whether it is orthodox or correct, I couldn’t say.”

Around 250 priests from 50 countries are attending this year’s conference at the Regina Apostolorum university as prelates from around the world report an increase in demand for exorcisms.

The course started in 2004, and since then the number of priests attending each year has more than doubled.

Earlier this year, Irish priest Fr Pat Collins said calls were rising “exponentially” and added that he was “baffled” Church leaders were not doing more.

“What I’m finding out desperately, is people who in their own minds believe – rightly or wrongly – that they’re afflicted by an evil spirit,” he said.

“I think in many cases they wrongly think it, but when they turn to the Church, the Church doesn’t know what to do with them and they refer them on either to a psychologist or to somebody that they’ve heard of that is interested in this form of ministry, and they do fall between the cracks and often are not helped.”

Last month, Italian exorcist Fr Benigno Palilla said there had been a surge in demonic activity in the country, and that Italy needed many more exorcists.

In his most recent apostolic exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate, Pope Francis warns that the devil is not a myth but a “personal being who assails us”

“We should not think of the devil as a myth, a representation, a symbol, a figure of speech or an idea,” the Pope wrote. “This mistake would leave us to let down our guard, to grow careless and end up more vulnerable.”