On September 16, 2016 in Rome, the internationally known exorcist, Father Gabriele Amorth, died. From 1986 until his death, he was head of the diocese of Rome. Amorth, together with other exorcists, founded the International Exorcist Association (AIE) in 1994, whose president he had been until 2000 and has been honorary president since then.
What Father Amorth was on an international level, Father Vincenzo Taraborelli is at the Italian level. Father Vincenzo Taraborelli is Carmelite and belongs to the Carmelite monastery on the Via della Conciliazione. He had been an exorcist of the Diocese of Rome along with Father Amorth for the past 27 years. He has now followed Amorth's footsteps as a de facto chief priest of the Pope's diocese.
Father Taraborelli offers regular consultations for exorcisms which are the Catholic rite of expelling evil spirits. An exorcist "must be accessible to everyone," says the Carmelite, and he is serious about it. Anyone who goes to the monastery website will find Father Taraborelli's office hours.
He stumbled into the job when a fellow priest needed help. "I didn't know what it was, I hadn't studied it," the father says. "He told me what to do. I was totally ignorant."
He has since become one of Rome's busiest exorcists, and the Catholic Church is struggling to find younger successors.
Working three days a week from a windowless room at the back of his church near the Vatican, he often sees up to 30 people every day.
"Before doing exorcisms I urge people to see a psychologist or a psychiatrist, and I ask them to bring me their prognosis. I'm in touch with many psychologists who send their patients here."
On one side of the room, a cabinet is filled with hundreds of small statues of angels. In a drawer, he keeps a supply of sweets to hand out to his visitors. On the wall is an official document showing his qualification as an exorcist.
Fr Taraborelli's desk is crowded with papers, photos, and prayer books. He sits in a simple chair; those who come to see him sit opposite him
"First of all, I get the room ready," he says. "Then if the person is not doing well, I try to calm them down reassure them. I invite them to join me in prayer. But many of them when they come here are already disturbed."
He looks through his copy of the Catholic Church's exorcism rites. He's had to tape it back together to stop it from falling apart. Amidst the pile of papers on his desk, he finds the cross he uses to expel evil spirits.
His most notable case involved a married woman he treated for 13 years.
"Another man, who was a Satanist, wanted her," he remembers. "She refused. So this man told her: 'You'll pay for this.' He cast so-called spells to attract her to him, twice a week.
"Then they came to me, in this room. I started to pray, and she went into a trance. She would blurt out insults, blasphemies. I quickly understood she was possessed.
"As the rite continued, she started feeling worse and worse. So when I told the devil: 'In the name of Jesus, I order you to go away’; she started to vomit little metal pins, five at a time.
"Aside from pins she would also vomit hair braids, little stones, pieces of wood. It sounds like something from another world right? Instead, it's something from this world."
Within the Catholic Church, the concept of possession by demons is an accepted belief, but outside the Catholic Church, many dispute the entire basis of demonic possession and exorcism.
Non-believers argue that so-called possession by evil spirits is simply a medieval superstition or myth. Those who claim to be possessed by evil spirits are people suffering from easily explicable psychological or psychiatric problems, they say.
It is sometimes used to explain murderous behavior, as in the recent murder of 85-year-old French priest Fr Jacques Hamel in his church in the French city of Rouen in July, 2016 by two Islamist terrorists who burst into the church and stabbed Fr. Hamel. He tried to fend them off, crying out "Be gone, Satan!".
Fr Taraborelli rejects the skepticism about the belief in evil and the devil. "Well, someone who isn't a believer doesn't believe in the devil either," he says, "But someone who believes knows that the devil exists, you can read it in the gospel. Then you only need to see how the world is nowadays. It has never been this bad. These violent acts are not human".
Fr Taraborelli shows no sign of wanting to give up his work and his mobile phone rings constantly.
But younger priests are not particularly attracted by the prospect of spending hours in windowless rooms, reading exorcism rites to disturbed believers.
"I told the bishop that I can't find anyone willing to do this. Many of them are scared. Even priests can be scared. It's a difficult life."
A version of this article appeared on BBC
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