An Irish priest and exorcist said the rise churchgoers asking for help in fighting demonic possessions has jumped "exponentially" in recent years.

Father Pat Collins, 72, said he is inundated almost on a daily basis with desperate people across the country seeking his help to combat evil spirits, without citing numbers.

He adds that he is "baffled" why the Catholic church in Ireland does not devote more resources to the rising concern.

"What I'm finding out desperately, is people who in their own minds believe – rightly or wrongly – that they're afflicted by an evil spirit," Collins told The Irish Catholic.

He added: "I think in many cases they wrongly think it, but when they turn to the Church, the Church doesn't know what to do with them and they refer them on either to a psychologist or to somebody that they've heard of that is interested in this form of ministry, and they do fall between the cracks and often are not helped."

The Dublin-born priest said in the Bible exorcism is central in the ministry of Jesus, adding that if the modern-day Church believed this ancient practice is outdated it was "out of touch with reality".

However, a spokeswoman for the Catholic Communications Office in Ireland said the church does requires that each of the country's 26 diocese should have a trained exorcist who is able to distinguish between demonic possession and mental illness.

He added: "Exorcisms are very rare and this office has not been made aware of any cases of 'exorcism' in Ireland in recent years. In most cases it will emerge after several meetings that it may be a medical, psychiatric or psychological problem and the person would then be referred to the relevant specialists."