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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Wanted: a few good men to cast out devils.
Overwhelmed with requests for exorcists, U.S. Roman Catholic bishops are holding a special training workshop in Baltimore this weekend to teach clerics the esoteric rite, the Catholic News Service reported.
The church has signed up 56 bishops and 66 priests for the two-day workshop that began on Friday, seeking to boost the small group of just five or six American exorcists that the church currently has on its books.
"There's this small group of priests who say they get requests from all over the continental U.S.," Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, was quoted as saying.
"Actually, each diocese should have its own" exorcist, he added.
Paprocki did not say why there was increased demand for exorcisms, which he noted were rarely performed.
While solemnly regarded by the Catholic Church, exorcism is a staple of Hollywood fright films -- most notably the 1973 film "The Exorcist" -- and regarded by many as superstition that lends a chill frisson to festivals like Halloween.
Catholic Church law stipulates that only properly trained priests can perform the rite -- and then only with the permission of their bishops.
Possible signs of demonic possession include scratching, cutting, biting of the skin; profound displays of strength; and a strong or violent reaction to holy water.
Writing by Tim Gaynor, Editing by Jonathan Oatis