Church Grapples with Wave of Russia's 'DIY Exorcisms'

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Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union at the end of the 1980s, Russia has reportedly seen an uptick in the number of exorcisms there—and many of them have not been performed by religious officials. The Russian Orthodox Church has issued a statement directing people to leave the practice of driving out evil spirits to qualified members of the clergy, in response to recent "DIY exorcisms" that have resulted in the deaths of adults and children alike.

The Church has also published new regulations laying out proper guidance for how and when exorcisms should be performed, as well as by whom, according to Bishop Hilarion, a senior official familiar with the document. In one high-profile 2019 case, a man allegedly whipped and gagged his nine-year-old son in an attempt to exorcise what he believed was a demon possessing the boy, who died during the ordeal. The man and at least one other person then allegedly tried to hide the boy's body after he failed to respond to attempts to resurrect him from the dead.

In another incident that same year, a woman allegedly suffocated her adult son to death in an attempt to address his interest in occult topics. The list of similar accusations goes on, with an alarming number of children among the victims of overzealous amateur exorcists. It is believed that these crimes are often committed at the urging of the leaders of offshoot sects of the Church, who reportedly believe that such extreme measures are necessary to fight the forces of evil.

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