The Roman Catholic Church is facing such high demand for exorcisms in Milan that it has set up a hotline and doubled the number of priests who cast out evil spirits.
Callers to the hotline – which is open on weekdays from 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. – can schedule visits with one of 12 priests, up from six.
"People in need can call and will be able to find a priest in the same area who doesn't have to travel too far," Monsignor Angelo Mascheroni, Milan's chief exorcist, says on the church's website.
The reason for the sharp increase in demand is unclear, but an article on the church's website cites calls from parents struggling with teenagers who skip school, take drugs or otherwise rebel.
Despite the higher number of requests, Father Mascheroni cautions that true demonic possession is very unusual, citing an exorcist who had performed only one true exorcism in his lifetime. Indeed, the question-and-answer piece is entitled: "Exorcists listen and console. The devil? It is rare."
Still, Father Mascheroni warns that vulnerable people are at risk of turning to charlatans. "Magicians demand money; we … give our time, give benediction … all for free. It couldn't be any other way," he says, according to a translation in The Independent.
Father Mascheroni says exorcists should limit themselves to no more than four such interventions a day. However, he says he knew of one exorcist who saw up to 120 people daily. "But with so little time per client he was only able to offer a quick blessing. That's not enough," he says.
The Church considers exorcism as the act of driving the devil or evil spirits out of a person's body.