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Local Priest Discusses Controversial Rite Of Exorcism

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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Exorcising the devil.  We see it in the movies, but is it happening in real life?

In a WJZ exclusive, Adam May has the shocking answer with a Baltimore connection.

The recent movie “The Rite” soared to the top of the box office.  Audio recordings of real exorcisms are a YouTube sensation and have been heard by almost 20 million people.  But the ancient religious practice isn’t just entertainment; it’s expanding in real life.

Father Joe Cocucci is one of the mid-Atlantic’s newest exorcists.  He and dozens of other priests from around the country met at a Baltimore hotel for two days, learning how to perform the rite, an hour of prayer and commands.

“If you want to look at the many weapons we have against the evil spirit, you could say the rite of exorcism is the nuclear bomb,” Cocucci said.

It’s been widely reported that Pope Benedict wants an exorcist available in every archdiocese.

“I encountered a man on the street who I was convinced was being afflicted by an evil spirit,” he said.  “He was cursing God in a loud voice; his arms were flailing.  I began to say under my breath, `Leave this man alone.  Why do you pick on the weaklings?’ When I said, `Cast thee out,’ he looked at me and said, `OK, man, peace’ and he walked away.”

A Maryland case even made its way to Hollywood. The 1974 movie “The Exorcist” is actually based on real events involving a teenage boy who lived in Prince George’s County in 1949. 

Cocucci said the events in that movie are realistic.

“Probably with the exception of the head spinning around, all of the other things exorcists have documented at different times,” he said.

But how can you tell the difference between demon possession and mental illness?

“Speaking languages other than their own that they wouldn’t learn, knowledge of events that they would have no way of knowing and superhuman strength have traditionally been things to look for,” he said.

Cocucci says modern exorcisms are only done in the U.S. after medical evaluations.  He says he’s ready to face evil head on.

“I have nothing to be afraid of.  The demons have something to be afraid of, and not because of me but because of Him,” he said.

The American Psychiatric Association views demonic possession as a mental illness, triggered by disorders such as schizophrenia, psychosis or hysteria.

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