A radio documentary reporting that hundreds of Germans believe themselves to be possessed by demons has drawn attention to the status of exorcism in the Catholic Church and the lack of exorcists in Germany.
The Times Online explains that the state-run radio network WDR’s report on exorcism in Germany has sparked the renewed interest . The radio piece consists of interviews with several exorcists and extracts from several exorcisms that the network received permission to record.
Father Joerg Mueller, who heads a group of priests, doctors and therapists to deal with possible cases of demonic possession, told WDR that in the past year he has received requests from about 350 people who believe they are possessed by an evil spirit.
“Therapy hasn't worked for them; they want exorcism — a prayer that can free them,” said Father Mueller, who is based in a Bavarian monastery. He estimated that about 90 percent of people seeking help are mentally ill rather than possessed. Many have suffered sexual abuse as children.
“But about ten per cent of the people who approach us have some sign of demonic possession and then you have to turn to special, charismatic men and women who have the gift of being able to feel and recognize if demons have entered someone,” he said.
A Polish exorcist referred to as Father Wiktor told WDR that many people are seeking help. “I would say that every day at least one person is undergoing a full-scale exorcism,” he said.
The lack of exorcists in Germany has moved some Germans to turn to spiritual healers and priests in Switzerland and Poland. Father Adrzej Trojanowski, a Polish priest, plans to set up an exorcism center in the town of Poczernin on the Polish-German border.
The topic of exorcism has been considered taboo by many German Catholics since the death of Anneliese Michel in 1973.
The 23-year-old woman reportedly had epilepsy and suffered from hallucinations. Two priests authorized to conduct an exorcism performed the rite 67 times. She died after starving herself to a weight of 68 pounds.
The exorcists and Michel’s parents were sentenced to six-months’ suspended jail sentence for not referring her for medical treatment. Her case was the basis for the 2005 movie “The Exorcism of Emily Rose.”