When the Pope’s Vicar for the Diocese of Rome, Cardinal Ugo Poletti, unexpectedly granted me the faculty of exorcist, I did not guess the immensity of the world that he had opened up to me or the multitudes who would flock to my ministry.
I was initially assigned as assistant to Father Candido Amantini, a Passionist priest, who was a renowned and expert exorcist. Those in need of his help would come from all parts of Italy, and often from abroad, to his headquarters, the church of the Holy Staircase in Rome. This assignment was a great grace to me; I believe that Father Candido was the only person in the world who could claim an experience of thirty-six years as a full-time exorcist. I could not have had a better teacher, and I thank him for the infinite patience with which he introduced me to this ministry.
I discovered something else. There are very few exorcists in Italy, even fewer who are well prepared, and fewer still in other countries. Therefore, I found myself blessing people from France, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, and England, because—those who came to me assured me—they had not been able to find an exorcist. Was it because bishops and priests did not care? Or was it because they honestly did not believe in the necessity and efficacy of this ministry? Whatever the reason, I felt I had been called to an apostolate among people who suffered greatly and whom nobody understood—neither their relatives, nor their doctors, nor their priests.
While this pastoral ministry is entirely overlooked in the Catholic world today, it was not so in the past. In some denominations of the Protestant church, exorcisms are still practiced frequently and fruitfully. Each cathedral should have an exorcist, just as it has a “penitentiary”. Where there is a greater need—such as in large parishes and in sanctuaries—there should also be a greater number of exorcists.
Not only are exorcists few in number, but also they are barely tolerated, and at times they are hindered. They seldom find anyone willing to open his door to them. Everyone knows that sometimes people possessed by demons scream; this is the main reason why a pastor or the superior of a religious order does not want an exorcist on his property. Peace and quiet become more important than the charity of healing people who are possessed. Even I have experienced this hostility, although less so than others who are better and more renowned exorcists. First of all, I would like to alert bishops of the gravity of the problem. Bishops must realize that this ministry is entirely entrusted to their care: it is only they who can practice or delegate an exorcism. Sadly, since most bishops have never performed an exorcism, they are seldom aware of the extent of the need.