Hundreds of Germans, tortured by inner voices, are on the search for priests who can free them from what they believe to be the grip of the Devil, according to an extraordinary radio documentary that has stirred an awkward debate about exorcism in the Catholic Church.“Over the past year alone I have received requests from around 350 people who think they are possessed by an evil spirit,” says Father Joerg Mueller, who heads a group of priests, doctors and therapists to deal with the problem. “Therapy hasn't worked for them; they want exorcism — a prayer that can free them.” Father Mueller, who is based in a Bavarianmonastery, was talking to a team from WDR, the state radio network, which was allowed to record extracts from eight exorcisms.A Polish exorcist, named only as Father Wiktor, suggested that this was only a fraction of the actual number seeking help. “I would say that every day at least one person is undergoing a full-scale exorcism,” he told WDR.
come as a shock to the Catholic Church in Germany, which has shied away
from exorcism since the tragic case of Anneliese Michel in 1973.
Ms Michel, 23, from a
strongly Catholic Bavarian village, had epilepsy and suffered from
Two priests were authorised to perform an exorcism.
They performed the ritual 67 times until she died, having starved
herself to 31kg (68lb).
After her death the priests
and herparents were sentenced to six-months' suspended jail sentences
for not referring her for medical treatment.
That verdict and the
publicity — two films were made about the case including The Exorcism
of Emily Rose in 2005 — scared the Church hierarchy. Permission for a
full exorcism now has to be granted by a bishop, but few permits have
been given. In a poll of German dioceses, only Paderborn admitted to
having authorised three exorcisms.
Frustrated by the lack of
exorcists in their own country, disturbed Germans are turning to
esoteric spiritual healers and priests in Switzerland and Poland.
Andrzej Trojanowski, a Polish priest, even has plans to set up an
exorcism centre in Poczernin, on the Polish-German border.
WDR broadcast some of the
sessions of the exorcists with Ms Michel. She is heard growlingand
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By Eric T. Hansen Special to The Washington Post
BERLIN -- The first person to recognize that Anneliese Michel was possessed
by demons was an older woman accompanying the girl on a pilgrimage. She noticed
that Anneliese would not walk past a certain image of Jesus, refused to drink
water from a holy spring and smelled bad -- hellishly bad. An exorcist in a
nearby town examined Michel and returned a diagnosis of demonic possession. The
bishop issued permission to perform the rite o...