Rome, Italy, Jul 31, 2015 / 13:02 pm America/Denver (CNA).
A priest has performed an aerial exorcism of the Italian seaside town of Castellammare di Stabia in response to a spree of church-targeted thefts and vandalism in the area.
At the urging of a local prayer group, a priest took to a helicopter to perform a minor exorcism over the entire town, according Italian papers.
“If Satan exists, he has taken control of Castellammare di Stabia,” the group said in a statement. “There was nothing left but to try the exorcist.”
Carried out July 9, the exorcism was announced by the prayer group a week later.
The area has long been plagued with violence from organized crime, but a series of thefts from churches, desecration of graves, crosses being turned upside down and statues of Mary being tossed over cliffs led locals to believe that something more sinister was at work.
Locals are hoping that this act, along with increased devotion among the locals, will help turn around the town that has been in moral and economic decline for some time.
Although the help of the helicopter is unique, it’s not the first time an exorcism has been performed over an entire city – or country.
In May faithful in Mexico gathered for a nationwide exorcism, carried out quietly in the cathedral of San Luis Potosí by Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez, the archbishop emeritus of Guadalajara.
High levels of violence, as well as drug cartels and abortion in the country, were the motivation behind the special rite of exorcism, known as “Exorcismo Magno.”
The closed-door May 20 ceremony was the first ever of its kind in Mexico.
Spanish demonologist and exorcist Father José Antonio Fortea, attended the exorcism. He told CNA in an interview that “the exorcism performed in San Luís Potosí is the first ever carried out in Mexico in which the exorcists came from different parts of the country and gathered together to exorcise the powers of darkness, not from a person, but from the whole country.”
He also spoke on how an entire country can become infested by demons to the point that it’s necessary to resort to an Exorcismo Magno.
“To the extent sin increases more and more in a country, to that extent it becomes easier for the demons to tempt (people),” he said.
He warned that “to the extent there is more witchcraft and Satanism going on in a country, to that extent there will be more extraordinary manifestations of those powers of darkness.”
During the 12th annual conference for the International Association of Exorcists (AIE), held in Rome Oct. 20-25, 2014, the organization’s spokesman, Dr. Valter Cascioli, explained that occult activity has been on the rise in recent years.
He said an increasing number of bishops and cardinals asked to participate in the conference due to an increase in demonic activity.
“It’s becoming a pastoral emergency,” Cascioli told CNA. “At the moment the number of disturbances of extraordinary demonic activity is on the rise.”
The rise in demonic activity can be attributed to a decreasing faith among individuals, coupled with an increase in curiosity and participation in occult activity such as Ouija boards and séances, he added.
“It usually starts out of ignorance, superficiality, stupidity or proselytizing, actively participating or just watching,” he said, but “the consequences are always disastrous.”
Many countries have voiced a need for more exorcists, including the Philippines. According to National Public Radio (NPR), the Philippine Office of Exorcism, headed by Father Jose Francisco Syquia, opened in 2006 to address a growing number of cases.
Trained in Rome, the exorcist said that he has been expelling demonic spirits from people for more than 12 years, and has seen a steady increase in cases in the past decade, with 200 already this year.
With only five exorcists managing all of the incoming cases, Syquia recently sent a letter to the Philippine bishops conference asking for one resident exorcist to be sent to each of the country's 86 dioceses.
The majority of Philippine dioceses “do not have exorcists or a team of exorcists that deal with these kinds of cases. Therefore many of the Filipinos tend to go to the occult practitioners, what we call the faith healers, spiritists, etc.,” he said.
The priest expressed his belief that the occult healers are responsible for the increased number of demonic possessions, saying that the healers leave a person with “spiritual openings” which allow demons to latch on.
In addition to the nationwide exorcism of Mexico, there has also been talk of diocesan-wide exorcisms within the United States.
Msgr. John Esseff, a priest for 62 years in the Diocese of Scranton, Pa., and an exorcist for more than 35 years, told the National Catholic Register that exorcisms such as the one done in Mexico “have helped bring awareness that there is such a thing as sin influenced by Satan.”
“The devil has much to do with (influencing people in) breaking the law of God,” he said, but stressed that an exorcism over the United States would be unlikely.
Rather, such actions can be done by each individual diocese, he said, and encouraged bishops to do so.
“Every bishop is the chief exorcist of his own diocese. Anytime anyone with the authority uses his power against Satan, that is powerful. Every priest and bishop has that power.”