Page last updated at 03:02 GMT, Sunday, 7 February 2010

Exorcism chapel opened in Mexico

By Cecilia Barria
BBC News, Mexico City


A Mexican church in the central city of Queretaro has opened a chapel in which exorcisms can take place.

There are no accurate figures for the number of exorcisms in Mexico.

But the Roman Catholic Church says that in Mexico City alone there are about 10 cases a month - and the phenomenon is on the rise.

Critics say that priests often mistake mental illness or epilepsy for signs of possession. The new church will only treat people already seen by doctors.

Old traditions

Belief in possession and exorcism is common in a country where more than 90% of the population is Catholic.

Nevertheless, Mexico now has a church where exorcisms can be performed: La Capilla de las Benditas Animas del Purgatorio.

Exorcism predates the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th Century.

Aztec healers burned herbs and prayed to eliminate the influence of bad spirits.

Nowadays the Roman Catholic Church follows the guidelines contained in a book published by the Vatican.

Signs of possession could be, for example, speaking in a foreign language that the person does not know, or being familiar with events that happened in far away places or in other times.

In a common exorcism, a priest performs a ceremony that includes sprinkling holy water over the possessed person and reciting prayers ordering the devil to depart.

Critics argue that priests commonly mistake mental illness such as schizophrenia or epilepsy and think instead they are confronting a demonic possession.

But one priest, Rogelio Cano, told the BBC that the new church will only accept cases that have been already been treated by doctors and psychiatrists.

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