A Colombian bishop is planning to exorcise an entire city this weekend, sprinkling holy water from a helicopter.
Monsignor Rubén Darío Jaramillo Montoya, the bishop of Buenaventura, will say a prayer intended to purge the area of demonic infestation.
The city is beset by violence, drug smuggling and poverty. Montoya disclosed the exorcism shortly after a 10-year-old girl was tortured and murdered.
He told local radio: “We have to drive the devil out of Buenaventura, to see if we can restore the peace and tranquility that our city has lost due to so many crimes, acts of corruption and with so much evil and drug trafficking that invades our port.
Colombia’s army is reported to be providing the bishop with a helicopter for the aerial exorcism during the city’s annual patron saints’ festivities.
Buenaventura, on Colombia’s Pacific coast, was named as the country’s most violent place in 2014. According to Human Rights Watch, “many of the city’s neighborhoods are dominated by powerful criminal groups that commit widespread abuses, including abducting and dismembering people, sometimes while still alive, then dumping them in the sea. The groups maintain ‘chop-up houses’ (casas de pique) where they slaughter victims, according to witnesses, residents, the local Catholic church and some officials.”
Since then, a marked improvement has been seen in some neighbourhoods after residents took action to regain control. But local media reported 51 homicides in the city in the first five months of this year, 20 more than the same period last year.
Although exorcisms are usually carried out on individuals, in 1890 Pope Leo XIII added a prayer, Exorcism against Satan and the Fallen Angels, for resolving demonic infestation.
Last year, the Vatican held an exorcism training course for priests amid claims that demands for deliverance from demonic possession had greatly increased across the world.
The Vatican-backed International Association of Exorcists, which represents more than 200 Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox priests, said the increase represented a “pastoral emergency”.