A littany of great news 4: Polish priests are ready to exorcise!

Quote:Polish priests are having a devil of a time as demand for exorcists rises

Published Date: 13 February 2010
By Matthew Day in Warsaw

THE number of priests in Poland willing to do battle with Satan and rid people of evil spirits has soared as a result of growing public demand for exorcisms, say Catholic Church figures.

As Polish exorcists gathered yesterday for their annual conference, few failed to notice the swollen ranks of clergy.

In the early 1990s, there were just three exorcists for the whole country. Now there are more than 100, and each year the number gets higher. In Europe, Poland now trails only Italy in the number of its registered exorcists.

"There are so many of us because the problem (of possession] is growing," Father Andrzej Grefkowicz told a press conference that shed a rare light on a practice which remains a mystery to many.

"This isn't funny," he added. "Anybody who has come into contact with somebody who is possessed, or enslaved, knows that this is not a joke."

Despite the spread of secular thought in Poland, according to the Polish Catholic Church, each year the number of people in "torment or enslaved by an evil spirit" increases.

"In Poland, there is a growing human awareness that different types of depression and anxiety can have a spiritual cause. There wouldn't be so many of us, if this wasn't the case," said Fr Grefkowicz by way of explanation.

Another reason cited by priests for the rise in exorcists is increasing public awareness of their role, and more people looking for explanations and cures to behaviour that conventional science struggles to deliver.

But despite the age-old struggle between faith and science, trained exorcists refer people to psychologists if they feel the person suffers from a clinical, rather than spiritual problem.

"So how do we recognise if someone is possessed?" said Fr Grefkowicz. "A person may hear voices, and it may be a medical problem, but experience allows us to conclude it is a possession. Exorcists are looking for reasons."

Other ways of discovering if somebody has an evil spirit in them appear more direct.

"In Italy, there is a good way," said Fr Antony Zielinski. "You have three white envelopes, two of which contain cards, while the third has a holy image. A person possessed will behave abnormally in contact with the envelope holding the holy picture."

Aware that talk of cards and evil spirits may invoke a negative reaction from the cynical, and that many people's knowledge of exorcism is based on Hollywood horror films, Poland's exorcists are cautiously trying to demystify their work.

"We really need to shed light on the whole subject," said Dr Alexander Posacki, a Jesuit theologian and exorcism expert.

"There are a lot of unnecessary myths surrounding it, but exorcism is based on the cast-iron rules of the Church," he added. "Everything is consistent with its tradition and its teachings."

In an effort to undermine the dramatic movie image of priests locked in tumultuous battles with evil spirits, Fr Grefkowicz said most exorcisms are more sedate affairs, rather than dramatic scenarios.

"Our work is based mainly on prayers and psalms, and that is how I cast out an evil spirit," he said.

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