The Roman Catholic Church has doubled the number of exorcists in Milan and set up a hotline to cope with what it says is growing demand for devil-busting priests in Italy's largest diocese.
Mons Angelo Mascheroni, the Milan diocese's auxiliary bishop and chief exorcist, says the number of requests has doubled.
"We receive a lot of requests for names, addresses and phone numbers," he told the Milan church's website. "That's why we have set up a switchboard in our (offices)."
The hotline, which is open for a few hours in the afternoon from Monday to Friday, refers callers to priests in their area, he said.
The number of exorcists in Milan has gone from six to 12.
Mons Mascheroni cited the case of a priest in the past who would see some 120 people a day, sometimes just to impart a blessing. He said each priest should hold no more than four meetings a day.
According to the Church, exorcism is the act of driving the devil out of a person's body.
Widely accepted signs of possession include speaking in unknown languages and demonstrating physical strength beyond one's ordinary capacity.
The rite for driving the devil out includes making the sign of the cross, sprinkling holy water and ordering the demon to leave.
Mons Mascheroni said: "Genuinely diabolical cases are, in my experience, very rare."
Many of the people who seek an exorcism are simply vulnerable or very distressed, often have fallen victims to charlatans, and probably need a psychiatrist, not a priest, he said.
"I always ask them if, before coming to see an exorcist, they have seen a magician, who perhaps got money out of them. I ask them if they have seen some specialists, because sometimes it's mental or psychiatric problems," he said.