The following comes from an Oct. 31 story on Vice News.

Catholic exorcists and experts have said that there has been a revival in requests for the practice in recent years, gaining a nod even from Pope Francis earlier this week when he thanked priests who perform the ritual.

The Pope sent a message to members of the International Association of Exorcists, a Catholic organization that held a conference in Rome October 25 and 26, thanking them for showing “love to those possessed,” IAC spokesman Valter Cascioli told Vatican Radio after the conference, according to the Religion News Service. Cascioli told the radio station that there had been a “steady increase” in requests for exorcism.

Rev. Gary Thomas, a member of the IAE and practicing Catholic priest and exorcist in Saratoga, California, explained that the uptick in requests is a result of young people moving away from the church and toward an ill-defined “spirituality” that he said can lead to danger.

“As people are drawn away from religion they are still searching for answers to the dilemmas of life, and are being drawn into other mutations of what spirituality is,” Thomas told Vice News. “As people are more drawn away from faith, superstition has increased, and that’s what a lot of this is. But it’s not just hokey, it has a lot of power to it. When you start tapping into the spirit world, you don’t know what you’re going to find. The demonic world is very much attached to the occult.”

Thomas and other experts cited growing interest in occult practices, including fortune tellers, Ouija boards, and psychics, as an opening for demons and the devil to take hold.

“A lot of it has to do with more people claiming to be spiritual rather than religious,” the Rev. Anthony Cutcher, president of the National Federation of Priests Councils, told Vice News. “Once you become spiritual, there are good spirits and bad spirits. If you open yourself up to the spiritual, it’s a mixed bag of which spirits you’re going to get.”

‘We are very careful. We move very slowly on this, we take a careful approach, we have to discern.’

But David Frankfurter, chair of the religion department at Boston University, said that an increased interest in exorcism is likely because of portrayals in the media, starting with The Exorcist in 1973 and continuing through today.

“What these movies do, and the reason they focus on Catholic exorcism, is it shows Catholicism to have a secret power that doesn’t seem to be emphasized by the Pope and post-Vatican II priests,” Frankfurter told Vice News. “The church in many ways wants to be seen as a modern religion, but with exorcism it comes off as a religion that has ancient secrets and ancient rituals.”

“People who are interested in alternative forms of spirituality, what they’re interested in is ancient secrets, usually,” he added. “So they are interested in Tarot and Kabbalah, not modern Wicca or neopagan spirituality, but what kinds of secrets have been lost in religion. People like that might be interested not in the Catholic Church as it is today, but as it used to be in the Middle Ages.”

Yet belief in the devil is a core tenet of Catholicism, and Catholic priests insisted to Vice News that exorcism remains a healing ministry of the priesthood.

“In a nutshell, it’s founded on the real belief that there is a tangible doer of evil in the world that we have traditionally called the devil or Satan, and it is a personal power of evil,” Rev. James T. Bretzke, a Jesuit and professor at Boston College’s School of Theology and Ministry, said. “Just as we believe there is a personal power of goodness, and the highest form of that is God, we believe that there is a counterforce that is personal or tangible and that is the devil or Satan.”

When a person requests an exorcism, they typically go to their parish priest or bishop’s office and are then asked to meet with a team of psychological and psychiatric experts and clinicians to see if the problem is actually a mental or physical illness or condition.

Thomas stressed that most of the requests he gets don’t end up in actual exorcisms. Often people need prayer, medical help, and counseling.

“We are very careful,” he said. “We move very slowly on this, we take a careful approach. We have to discern….”

To read the original story, click here.