Professor Giuseppe Ferrari, head of the Italian occult watchdog The Group on Research and Socio-Religious Information, was speaking at a week-long event at the Pontifical University of Regina Apostolorum in Rome.
“There are those who try to turn people into vampires and make them drink other people’s blood, or encourage them to have special sexual relations to obtain special powers,” he said, according to the Independent’s Rome correspondent on Monday.
Speaking of their potential influence on those dabbling in the supernatural, Professor Ferrari added: “These groups are attracted by the so-called beautiful young vampires that we’ve seen so much of in recent years.” [The vamps he is referring to are likely to include the cast of the True Blood and Twilight TV series as well as films such as Interview With The Vampire.]
The week-long conference is being attended by around 160 Catholic priests from around the world.
Swiss exorcist Father Cesare Truqui, who told The Telegraph he had taken part in around 100 exorcisms, claims the training is important for priests to discern the difference between people with psychiatric problems and those who were genuinely possessed by the devil.
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He said: “Some people are mentally ill and do not need exorcism. But others do and there are some classic signs – people who speak in ancient tongues, for instance.
“Other people have supernatural strength when they are in a state of possession – it might take four men to hold down a slightly-built woman. In some cases, people are able to levitate.”
Father Truqui is an apprentice of Father Gabriele Amorth, the Catholic Church’s leading exorcist who says demand for the service is “huge” and who has addressed the conference previously.
In 2013 Father Amorth, who claims to have carried out 160,000 exorcisms himself, called on Pope Francis to grant all priests the power to perform the ritual, insisting he had witnessed the pontiff carry one out himself in St Peter’s Square.
Francis was filmed placing his hands on the head of a boy sitting in a wheelchair after a Pentecost Mass.
The boy, who was accompanied by a priest, appeared to convulse, with his mouth dropping wide open before exhaling deeply.
Despite denials from the Vatican, Father Amorth maintained: “It was a real exorcism. If the Vatican has denied this, it shows that they understand nothing.
“We live in an age in which God has been forgotten. And wherever God is not present, the devil reigns.”
In 2012 the Catholic diocese of Milan created a special exorcism hotline to cope with demand, with Monsignor Angelo Mascheroni telling IncrociNews the switchboard was manned from 2.30 – 5pm on Monday to Fridays.
Last year the Pope officially revived the practice of driving out the devil by dispatching a group of 250 demon-fighting priests from the Vatican.
Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano reports that the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy had approved the organisation’s statutes and recognised the group under canon law.