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Why do exorcists ask demons to reveal their names?

Algirdas Gelazius | Shutterstock

Chiara Santomiero - published on 04/05/17

In this interview with an exorcist from Switzerland, we're told the devil isn't everywhere—but don't go looking for him either, just in case.

With our modern mentality, the subjects of exorcism and demonic possession generally inspire a reaction somewhere between fascination and open incredulity. This is the stuff of movies, but it also makes you think.

For the Catholic Church, though, exorcism is something governed with a book of ritual, De exorcismis et supplicationibus quibusdam (Rite of exorcism and prayers for particular circumstances, adopted in 1998 to replace the previous, older version, which may still be used), and it is subject to certain conditions and prescriptions.

The motivations for these strict rules are rooted in Holy Scripture and in theology. It’s a delicate subject that must be handled prudently by priests who are suitably prepared and well balanced (“pious, knowledgeable, prudent, and with personal integrity”), with the express authorization of their bishop.

Aleteia spoke with César Truqui, who is an exorcist of the Diocese of Chur, Switzerland, and who was a speaker at the 11th course on “Exorcism and Prayer of Liberation” at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum in Rome (the course which inspired the Anthony Hopkins movie The Rite).

Chiara Santomiero: What kind of evil is confronted in an exorcism?

Fr Truqui: Evil personified. Paul VI spoke of “the smoke of Satan.” Not a simple “privatio bonis,” the privation of good as described by philosophy, but rather an evil that is effective and operative. We are talking here about the presence of an evil being. Only faith, not science, can tell us what this evil being is. The Christian faith tells us of the existence of spiritual beings: the good ones are angels, and the bad ones are demons.

Isn’t it a bit hard to accept the existence of evil as a being that physically possesses a person?

Yes, that’s true, because normally in our daily lives we don’t have any experiences of this kind. But because of the ministry that I’ve been carrying out for so many years, I’ve had the opportunity of meeting these people, and for me it is easier to believe that certain phenomena exist.

Read more:
Pope Francis: You can’t dialogue with the devil!

How did you start?

It was divine providence. When I was ordained to the priesthood 12 years ago, I participated in a course with priests who were exorcists, such as Fathers Bamonte and Amorth. As it happened, the case of a 40-year-old French man was presented. He was possessed by Satan and needed an exorcist, but Bamonte spoke neither English nor French. So, they asked me to help with the preliminary dialogue.

Read more:
How to Beat the Devil:  Advice from Rome’s Chief Exorcist

How does it feel to find yourself facing the manifestation of evil?

Your feelings change over time. During the first exorcism sessions in which I participated, what struck me most was the tangible confirmation that the Gospel which I had read and meditated on was true. In the Gospel, Jesus fought against demons that called themselves by various names: “My name is Legion,” “My name is Satan.” In the Old Testament, in the Book of Tobit, there is a demon named Asmodeus. I’ve heard demons pronounce these names in various exorcism sessions.

On a spiritual level, it has been a very rich experience, because it has allowed me to experience in my own flesh, through my senses, the reality that Jesus spoke of.

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