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Exorcist at Rome conference helping priests learn to detect “spiritual disorder”

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Hearing confessions is a "very exalted" mission, but one that is "not easy," says Vatican official

Priests need the necessary tools to recognize when a soul in confession might need the help of an exorcist, according to a Vatican official of the Apostolic Penitentiary.

Bishop Krzysztof Józef Nykiel said this to L’Osservatore Romano, in speaking about a course on conscience and confession (the internal forum) that the Tribunal of the Apostolic Penitentiary holds each year in Rome. An exorcist was part of the program this year.

This training session has been organized for 29 years by the Apostolic Penitentiary, explained Bishop Nykiel, the regent of the Penitentiary. And every year, the participants are received by Pope Francis, in a “tangible sign of his special attention” to the sacrament of penance and reconciliation.

In the late afternoon of March 9, Pope Francis will lead a penance ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica for the “24 hours for the Lord” initiative, which involves churches worldwide staying open for a full 24 hours, to make confession available.

Beforehand, the pope will receive in audience the participants of the course.

The purpose of these courses, said the prelate, is not to train “technicians of the sacred” but to give the confessors an “adequate theological, legal, and pastoral preparation” to help the priests to act “following the model of the merciful Father.”

Confession, he insisted, is a “very exalted and not easy” mission that must avoid falling into “formalism.”

Regarding the participation of the exorcist priest, Bishop Nykiel said, quoting the Sovereign Pontiff, that confessors must indeed be able to recognize people suffering from a “spiritual disorder.” Thus, they have to be given the “necessary tools.” These cases require discernment and, if necessary, the help of the exorcist of the diocese.

Every year since 2013, the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization has organized the “24 hours for the Lord” during Lent.

In Rome, Pope Francis will preside at the penitential ceremony during which he will himself go to confession before hearing some confessions. This year, the theme for “24 hours for the Lord” will be the phrase from Psalm 130: “Forgiveness is found near You.”

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