Demand for exorcism sessions has reportedly seen a sudden surge in France with people allegedly fearing demonic entities following the deadly 2015 Paris attacks and the series of terror attacks that followed in the country and elsewhere in Europe over the past two years.
The Roman Catholic Church, which has strict norms for choosing people who can avail of their authorised exorcism sessions, have been turning away thousands of applications each year, the Daily Mail reported.
Yet, the church reportedly ends up performing nearly 50 exorcisms a year in the Paris area — a steep rise from 10 or 15 it performed a decade ago, according to The Daily Telegraph.
The gap left by the church is being met by private practitioners, many of whom offer their services online. However, these private priests are being accused of exploiting people with psychological issues.
Jean Clemet, who claims to be an ordained priest of a small congregation known as the Cenobite Order of Exorcist Priests of Saint Pacôme, told the Telegraph that he charges between €150 (£135, $179) and €300 for a ritual lasting an hour or two. He advertises his services online and performs as many as four exorcisms a week these days, up from one or two he used to conduct per month in 2016.
He claims that the explanation behind this sudden surge in exorcism rituals is broader than terrorism. "Given the economic, social and political conditions in the whole world, people are very worried. They suffer anxiety, and they come to try to find out why these things are happening," the 57-year-old added.
Some religious experts reportedly believe that post terror attacks in places like Paris and Nice in France had made people fearful of demonic entities.
Clemet added that so far, he has only turned away one person for the ritual, but condemned the church for refusing large number of people seeking their services.
Father Georges Berson, one of only two priests in Paris who is authorised by the Roman Catholic Church to carry out exorcisms, said that these rituals would not solve problems such as depression or anxiety.
He said that the church receives about 2,500 requests for exorcism each year in the French capital, of which most are rejected as cases of psychological or emotional difficulties, rather than demonic possession. Many applicants are struggling to cope with family problems or difficulties at work, he explained.
Condemning the fee-charging private exorcists in the country, he said no true exorcist would charge money. He also expressed concerns about vulnerable people being exploited by the so-called private exorcists.
"The false priests and the false exorcists and so on — they ask for money, a lot of money. One lady came here and she had spent €50,000 [£45,000] with charlatans," he said, explaining his concerns.
Georges revealed that many people who approach them for exorcism are from Africa or the Caribbean, but nearly half of them are European, particularly from France and Portugal.
While France is reported to have the highest number of exorcisms in entire Europe, it was reported earlier in 2017 that the demand for exorcisms in the US has also seen a steep rise.
Father Vincent Lambert of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis said that the reason for high demand is that people are becoming more susceptible to the devil. "The problem isn't that the devil has upped his game, but more people are willing to play it," the Daily Mail quoted him as saying. He added since his appointment in 2005, the number of other exorcists in the state has grown from 12 to 50.
Father Lambert blamed the rise in demand for exorcism to pornography and drugs.