London, May 22 : Hundreds of Germans are on the search for priests who can help them get rid of their demons - literally.
According to a new radio documentary, the Catholic Church is being flooded with exorcism requests by Germans who believe they are in the grip of the Devil.
Father Joerg Mueller, who heads a group of priests, doctors and therapists to deal with the problem, admitted that he has had over 350 such requests over the past year.
"Over the past year alone I have received requests from around 350 people who think they are possessed by an evil spirit. Therapy hasn't worked for them; they want exorcism - a prayer that can free them," Times Online quoted him, as saying.
The revelation however, has come as a bit of a shock to the Catholic Church in Germany, which has shied away from exorcism since the 1973 case of Anneliese Michel.
23-year-old Anneliese had epilepsy and suffered from hallucinations. Her staunch Catholic family however believed that she was possessed and two priests were authorised to perform an exorcism.
In all, the performed the ritual 67 times until she died, having starved herself to 31kg.
Her death however, had consequences both for the Church and the family. The priests and her parents were sentenced to six-months' suspended jail sentences for not referring her for medical treatment.
The ruling and the publicity that followed made the Church vary of exorcisms, and priests now need a bishop's permission to perform a full exorcism.
The permits however, are hard to obtain.
And it is for this reason that Germans are turning to spiritual healers and priests in Switzerland and Poland to conduct exorcisms.