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The Vatican was holding a course about exorcism this week amid a burgeoning interest in the practice and the occult in general, according to one of the organizers.
"We have held this course for the past 10 years, and the numbers of those who want to attend keep growing," said Giuseppe Ferrari of the Research Group of Socio-Religious Formation, one of the event's organizers.
"Initially we had 50 students. This year we had 200 people from 30 countries around the world," he said on Friday.
The growing interest in exorcism is aligned with the number of people who believe they are possessed and want help, he said. He added that the spike in depictions of vampirism and magic in popular culture were a real threat to the souls of young people.
"Some get attracted to it by listening to hard rock, heavy metal, which spread satanic messages, or are fans of shows like 'True Blood' or 'Twilight,'" he said.
"I know of bars that serve drinks mixed with blood," Ferrari added. "This is very dangerous."
The Vatican's course, "Exorcism and Prayer of Liberation.” provides the tools needed to cast demonic spirits from human hosts, according to its official website. The six-day event ending Saturday also aims to teach practitioners how to distinguish "real" demonic possession from mental illness and cult worship.
Pope Francis’ frequent reference to the Devil may also be stoking interest in exorcism.
"The devil exists," the pope said in October, soon after recognizing the International Association of Exorcists under canon law, "and we must fight against it."
A exorcism or "anti-sect" hotline established in 2012 provides an indication of the interest in the practice. Last year it received 2,000 calls.