“It rejoices my heart,” one of the oldest exorcists in the U.S. said upon hearing that a bishop in Colombia plans to perform an exorcism over one of the worst crime-ridden cities and sprinkle holy water from an Army helicopter,
“If every bishop would wake up to their powers, the devil wouldn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell — the results would be amazing,” the 91-year-old Msgr. John Esseff of Scranton, Pennsylvania, said. He is a founder and past president and ex-officio board member of the Pope Leo XIII Institute, which trains exorcists and is dedicated to healing through Christ, and is a contributor to a chapter on spiritual protection in the new book Holy Hacks.
Driving the Devil Out
With the support of the National Army, the bishop of the Diocese of Buenaventura, Monsignor Rubén Darío Jaramillo Montoya, announced the city will be showered in holy water while an exorcism prayer is said to purge the area of the infestation of evil.
During an interview with a local radio station about the plans, the Catholic bishop said, “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. We want to go around the whole of Buenaventura, from the air, and pour holy water onto it to see if we exorcise and get out all those demons that are destroying our port, so that God's blessing comes and gets rid of all the wickedness that is in our streets.”
Around 80% of the Buenaventura’s residents live in extreme poverty without access to drinking water and toilets. It is Colombia’s main port city on its Pacific coast with about 60% of the country’s trade. It has also become a key drug smuggling route to the United States and one of South America’s most violent cities, where people often go missing or are murdered in brutal ways.
With a population of 333,000, there were 51 homicides in the first five months of 2019, compared with 20 in that same period last year. The bishop’s announcement of the exorcism came a week after the body of a 10-year-old girl, murdered by her uncle, was discovered. The ritual is scheduled as part of Buenaventura’s annual patron saints’ festivities July 13-14.
Although the Rite of Exorcism is associated with driving demons out of people who are possessed, there is also a minor exorcism prayer for infestations — spaces the devil has taken over. In 1890 Pope Leo XIII added a prayer against infestation, the “Exorcism Against Satan and the Fallen Angels,” as an appendix to the solemn exorcism to be used in cases of demonic infestation.
Msgr. Esseff has used this prayer over properties and places where the devil is manifesting or where there is a history of violence. Like all reported cases of demonic activity, Msgr. Esseff explained there is always an investigation and the bishop needs to give permission. “The power [to fight evil] is God-given through the chief authority of bishops,” he said. In the case of Buenaventura, the evil is clear, and it is the bishop leading the charge against it.
“The power of the Church entrusted to the bishops is exactly what the devil fears most,” according to Msgr. Esseff. “He’s afraid the bishops are all going to wake up and start exorcising their authority. If they [the bishops] would come into the use of their power, what would happen to the kingdom of darkness would be amazing.”
“Let me get this straight,” he explained. “The devil knows authority. When the authority of the Church shows up, he has no choice but to respect it because it is the power of God. In the name of God, the Father, in the name of Jesus his Son, and in the name of the Holy Spirit, that power is what drives out the devil.”
While faithful Catholics look on and cheer, no doubt many wonder: What about us? Worldwide, evil seems to have an upper hand in cities with high drug traffic and murder rates and places where the death of unborn children, sexual deviance and anti-God sentiments are celebrated.
We know that spiritual warfare began with Adam and Eve and will continue into the apocalypse, yet having religious leaders take visible command in the fight lifts our spirits. Like Msgr. Esseff, it does our heart good when we witness our leaders facing evil head on.