Every weekday morning (except Thursdays), 76-year-old Father Vincenzo Taraborelli receives parishioners with a particular spiritual dilemma after the 8:30am mass in the Church of Traspontina (pictured), a stone’s throw away from St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. In an incense-thick, candlelit corner of the church, he blesses the troubled with a prayer and holy water to ward off evil spirits. On Wednesday mornings before mass, he recites the rosary in a special prayer of liberation from the chains of the devil. The followers in the pews are glued to his every word, seemingly dependent on his blessing to keep the devil at bay.
Father Taraborelli is a trained exorcist for the Rome diocese, and his work schedule is very busy. He takes calls to set up appointments for private exorcisms on a dedicated cellphone number he only answers between 9 and 10pm each night. The rest of the time, he is performing the Catholic ritual to those in need.
Taraborelli, who was trained 50 years ago and who has in turn trained hundreds of exorcists to perform the sacred rite, says pop-culture books and movies have largely romanticized the procedure. “You often see the exorcist portrayed looking as evil as the possessed,” he says.