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Course on Satanism and Exorcism Opens at Pontifical University in Rome

About 120 students from all over the world stood in solemn prayer this week at the opening class of the Exorcism and Prayer of Liberation course at the Pontifical Academy Regina Apostolorum. It's the second time the course has been offered.

The students are mainly priests, but the course is open to anyone who is interested in exorcism.

On the first day, students were told that devil worship groups and occult practices are becoming increasingly common, and that is why there is a greater need for exorcists.

Father Gabriele Nanni, an exorcist and lecturer, of the course explains why so many people are turning to the occult.

He says people suffer problems of communication, solitude, a feeling of emptiness. He says the occult and Satanism seek to fill this void.

Father Nanni and his colleagues say people who suffer, think that turning to the occult can help resolve their problems.

Carlo Climati, another of the lecturers at Regina Apostolorum, says there are certain signs that need to be understood during moments of crisis. He says it is at those times that phenomena that are not normal can manifest themselves, like speaking unknown languages, having disproportionate physical strength and an aversion to everything that is sacred.

The Vatican's ritual for exorcism was updated in 1999. Guidelines tell priests authorized to carry out exorcisms to "diligently examine the facts", before sprinkling holy water on someone claiming to be possessed by Satan.

Catholic church leaders have been concerned about the increasing influence of the occult through the media, rock music and the Internet. Pope Benedict recently welcomed a large group of Italian exorcists who visited the Vatican, and encouraged them to carry out their work in the service of the Church.