Experts from the Catholic Church in Italy and the US say there is an urgent demand for exorcists following a sharp rise in people dabbling in Satanism because of online access to occult websites.

Valter Cascioli, a psychologist and scientific consultant to the International Association of Exorcists, which is endorsed by the Vatican, described the lack of priests capable of dealing with dark forces as a pressing problem.

“The lack of exorcists is a real emergency. There is a pastoral emergency as a result of a significant increase in the number of diabolical possessions that exorcist priests are confronting.

“The number of people who take part in occult and satanic practices, which lead to serious physical, psychological and spiritual damages, is constantly rising,” he said.