The Italian Almanac


The Exorcist Files

Demons are set to take centre stage on television as the Vatican joins forces with the Discovery Channel for an unprecedented new series on exorcism. "The Exorcist Files" aims to recreate stories of real-life demonic possession and will be based on cases investigated by the Catholic Church over the years.

In the Catholic Church, all priests can in theory perform exorcisms but, in reality, only a select few are assigned the task. They have to be given an authorization to perform techniques and rites by their local bishop. Exorcists say that contact with the occult is one of the ways the Devil can gain access to a person's mind, sometimes exploiting the situation to 'possess' that individual.

While there are no official numbers for Italy, it is believed that over 300 priests practise the Vatican-approved procedures for casting out the Devil. In recent years, a sharp rise in people's requests for priests to fight back the Devil led to the creation of ad-hoc courses aimed at trainee exorcists. For instance, each year priests can attend a week-long course called "Exorcism and Prayers of Liberation" at Rome's Ateneo Pontifico Regina Apostolorum, one of the top Vatican universities.

"The Vatican is an extraordinarily hard place to get access to, but we explained we're not going to try to tell people what to think", said Discovery Channel president Clark Bunting. The series, set to make its debut this spring on the Discovery Channel, will explain among other things how a demon can inhabit not only a human being but also an inanimate object. According to Bunting, "the work these folks do, and their conviction in their beliefs, makes for fascinating stories".

For the ten-part series, the Vatican will give access to its archives as well as allowing its religious experts on exorcism to participate in the programme. These specialists do not usually comment on their work about fighting back demons and are rarely seen on television. The rite of exorcism involves a series of gestures and prayers to invoke the power of God and stop the 'demon' influencing its possessed victim.

If the series' first season is successful, the network hopes the Vatican will continue the partnership project, said the network executive.