• Germany's news in English
 

German Catholics bring back exorcism

Published: 21 May 2008 17:56 GMT+02:00

The Archdiocese of Paderborn in the German state of North Rhine-Westfalia said on Monday that church officials had commissioned three exorcisms in the past eight years, most recently in 2003.

"It's a plea to God for help," archdiocese spokesman Ägidius Engel told German news agency DPA, saying that the people affected were "people experiencing the deepest of spiritual suffering."

Engel told DPA that church officials commisioned exorcisms - a ritual to drive out evil spirits - only after examination by pastoral counselors and psychiatrists had found the affected people to be free of mental illness. Paderborn officials received 18 serious requests since 1999 for exorcism from people who believed themselves to be possessed by the devil, he said.

"It is a normal, but rare event," Engel told DPA, adding that church officials required a doctor to be present. "In such difficult cases we can only become involved with medical assistance."

The announcement came after Bavarian radio station Bayerischer Rundfunk reported on Monday that church officials in Paderborn and the Bavarian city of Augsburg had commissioned exorcisms. The radio station said it had information showing that Augsburg Bishop Walter Mixa had ordered the practice.

In a statement, Mixa spokesman Christoph Goldt declined to comment on which priests had performed exorcisms and in how many cases, citing pastoral confidentiality. He described exorcisms as rare cases governed by strict church rules updated most recently in 1999 by Pope John Paul II.

"Exorcism does not have anything to do with spectacular movie cliches," Goldt said in the statement, describing it as a prayer to deliver believers from evil similar to the words said at a baptism.

Though German-born Pope Benedict XVI has supported wider use of exorcism in the Catholic Church, his countrymen have retreated from the practice since Anneliese Michel, a student from the Bavarian town of Klingenberg am Main, starved to death after undergoing dozens of exorcisms in 1976.Her parents and the two priests who performed the exorcisms were found guilty in 1978 of contributing to her death through negligence.

Jörg Müller, a theologian and therapist at the Pallotti House in Freising, told The Local he was not aware until this week of any officially sanctioned exorcisms since the Michel case.

Müller differentiated between exorcisms and what he called a "cleansing prayer," a more general plea for help and rescue that is not directed at any specific evil spirit. He said only a few of the some 350 people who contacted his centre last year with concerns about evil spiritual influences qualified for the therapy.

Most of the people who came to the centre asking for help with evil spirits needed other medical or psychological assistance, he said, adding that most had been emotionally or sexually abused as children.

"You see more exorcisms in eastern, southern countries. They believe more in demons," Müller said. "If this ritual was ever to be used in Germany again, it could only be done in a team and under the strictest supervision."

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Today's headlines
Extreme heat causes Autobahn to rupture
A fissure on the Autobahn near Heidelberg. Photo: DPA

Extreme heat causes Autobahn to rupture

The heatwave sweeping across the country may have Germans flocking to the sea this weekend, but the extreme temperatures are also causing Autobahns to break apart. READ  

Nazi island resort to be turned into luxury flats
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Nazi island resort to be turned into luxury flats

A vast Nazi mega-complex meant as holiday homes for German workers and later used by the Soviets as a Cold War barracks is about to be turned into luxury flats. READ  

Greece crisis
'Bundestag must vote on new bailout': Schäuble
A poster of German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble in Athens reads "For five years he has sucked your blood. Now tell him NO." Photo: DPA

'Bundestag must vote on new bailout': Schäuble

UPDATE: Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said on Friday that there would be no quick release of bailout funds to Greece after the country's referendum on whether to accept its creditors' terms on Sunday. READ  

Activists give Dalai Lama 80th birthday stamp
The new Deutsche Post stamp showing the Dalai Lama. Photo: DPA

Activists give Dalai Lama 80th birthday stamp

Pro-Tibet activists have created a new limited-edition stamp featuring the Dalai Lama to mark the Tibetan spiritual leader's 80th birthday. READ  

Women's World Cup
'Germany will crack England': top coach
Star striker Celia Sasic. Photo: DPA

'Germany will crack England': top coach

The manager of European champions FFC Frankfurt told The Local he expects Germany to beat England in the third place play-off in the Women's World Cup, and predicted his protege Celia Sasic will grab a goal or two. READ  

NSA surveillance scandal
Calls grow for govt to act on NSA spying
Chancellor Angela Merkel, the highest-profile German victim of NSA spying, speaking on the phone. Photo: DPA

Calls grow for govt to act on NSA spying

Green Party security expert Konstantin von Notz told The Local on Friday that Chancellor Angela Merkel is failing to restore faith in the German-US partnership following fresh spying revelations. READ  

Germany reach semis of beach volleyball worlds
Ilka Semmler and Katrin Holtwick. Photo: DPA file

Germany reach semis of beach volleyball worlds

Germany's top beach volleyball pair are storming the world championships in Holland and prepare to face Brazil in the semis on Friday. READ  

Environment minister blasts Merkel, colleagues
Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks. Photo: DPA

Environment minister blasts Merkel, colleagues

Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks loosed a broadside against her cabinet colleagues on Friday in a guest article for Die Welt, saying that they had decided to do too little to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in a way that would cost too much. READ  

Greece crisis
BILD polls readers in own 'Greece referendum'
Image: BILD/screenshot

BILD polls readers in own 'Greece referendum'

Tabloid Bild continued its campaign against bailouts for Greece on Friday by calling its own "referendum", asking readers to fill out a poll on whether Germany should keep stumping up. German politicians were divided on how the Greek vote would affect Europe. READ  

Police confiscate WW2 tank hidden in cellar
The Panther tank removed from a cellar in Kiel, with a prosecutors' evidence label attached to its barrel. Photo: DPA

Police confiscate WW2 tank hidden in cellar

Police searched a villa in a wealthy suburb of Kiel on Wednesday and found a Second World War tank, a torpedo and other weaponry in the cellar. On Thursday they were still working on removing the tank. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
Police seize pensioner's WW2 heavy weapons haul
National
How to survive the Europe-wide heatwave
Sport
Is Schweini already out of the door at Bayern?
Politics
How German media shaped the Greece crisis
National
Car assembly robot crushes worker at Volkswagen
Rhineland
Weathermen red-faced over heatwave snow warning
Society
An eye for an eye? Mum protects child in playground with pepperspray
National
As it happened: Queen Elizabeth's final day in Germany
National
As it happened: Queen Elizabeth's second day in Germany
National
Queen Elizabeth II's first day in Germany - as it happened
National
Bus passengers tell fake racists where to get off
Politics
What's really in the Queen's handbag?
National
Germans say USA doesn't respect freedom
National
Yes, you CAN buy adult e-books before 10pm in Germany
VIDEO: Watch a 93-metre turbine crash to earth in slow motion
Gallery
Who's got a shot at the German Film Awards
Rhineland
Anger over 'child-free' beer garden
National
How do you do, Majestät?
National
Man defends right to pee in public with tear gas
Features
The Germans who won Waterloo for the British
Frankfurt
Should Germany ban circus animals?
Hamburg
Where people are having the most sex in Germany
Culture
Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Not this student...
National
Dresden's three-decade-long red light
Politics
Upper house calls for gay marriage now
Berlin
Berlin named 3rd-best city worldwide
Sport
In search of the toughest firefighter
Business & Money
German firms shine for European engineering students
Gallery
Hitler's paintings up for auction
National
German's 70-year search for murdered US pilot
Politics
What the G7 leaders agreed at Elmau
Business & Money
What really makes Germans happy
National
Playmobil builder leaves worldwide legacy
National
The car share that became a drug run
Politics
What Snowden revealed to Germany
Rhineland
Why wolf cubs are being raised by hand
National
Hitler's booze cave found
National
Environment makes Germany worth living in
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

7,002
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd