Ten questions for Fr Elias Vella, the Maltese exorcist

Ever danced with the devil in the moonlight...?

Ten questions for Fr Elias Vella, the Maltese exorcist
Ten questions for Fr Elias Vella, the Maltese exorcist
Ten questions for Fr Elias Vella, the Maltese exorcist

What is an exorcist?

Practically, an exorcist is a church official designated by the Archbishop to deal with individuals possessed by the devil, or at least think that they are possessed by the devil. Becoming an exorcist all boils down to the Archbishop’s choice.

How does someone become possessed?

A person becomes possessed because a lot of the time, he or she opens themselves up to the devil. This means, you have a person meddling with Satanism, or a person meddling with the occult, or with spiritism. If you have an opening, you are leaving an open window which gives the devil an easier passage to the soul.

How long does an exorcism take?

Exorcisms don’t have timeframes; sometimes you may have a person that is really involved and that is critically possessed and within half-an-hour the exorcism is successful, and sometimes an exorcism may take years.

Fr Elias Vella, by James Bianchi
Fr Elias Vella, by James Bianchi

Can lay persons perform an exorcism?

A true exorcism can only be performed by an exorcist. Naturally, a priest because of the sacrament of his priesthood, has more power than a lay person, but even the lay person and the secular, have some power due to their baptism.

Are people really possessed, or are they psychiatric patients who think they are possessed by an evil spirit?

The majority of people that come to us or that are brought to us, to be prayed on, are not possessed. You have a lot of people that have psychological or psychiatric disturbances. That’s where the exorcist’s decision to include the psychologist or psychiatrist comes in, where they help him to determine if the person in question requires psychological or spiritual treatment. Both the psychiatrist and the exorcist work hand in hand and a lot of the times the psychiatrist realises that all the scientific methods are not prevailing while he is giving medicine which is not working. The psychiatrist then starts to suspect, and calls the exorcist to help him in his work.

Photo by James Bianchi
Photo by James Bianchi

Do you ever get scared during an exorcism?

Exorcism is never an easy work. There are moments when the person can turn aggressive against you and that is when you are in danger. The exorcist also gets scared because the devil may try and harm the person. The exorcist also expects paranormal phenomena like changes in the person’s voice, exaggerated aggressiveness. Sometimes we also see levitation, where the person floats above ground and those naturally scare you a little bit.  

Is it only Catholics or Christians who get possessed by the devil?

No, the devil doesn’t look at Catholic people only; he preys on other faiths too. When I was in India, I met Hindus in India that were possessed. Why? Because even if they don’t know it, they’re still worshiping false gods. Despite having good intentions and being good people, they are more exposed. Catholics have more protection, as they have the protection of baptism and if someone doesn’t believe in God, the devil doesn’t care less. The devil only wants victims.

Photo by James Bianchi
Photo by James Bianchi

How close is a real exorcism to what happens in the film The Exorcist? Do heads spin around and victims levitate?

They are not things that happen during every exorcism, but the things we see during the film, can happen and have happened, but don’t happen during a single exorcism on a single person. This means that the director put every possible paranormal activity into one person and that made the character quite scary.

You may have an individual who turns their head in an exaggerated manner; you don’t imagine how he or she is able to do it but these things can happen. Elevation can occur and aggressiveness is one of the most common occurrences, meaning you have someone who can flatten a chair as if it was a piece of cardboard.

The different languages spoken by the possessed when they had never studied them is also another thing which occurs and I remember once, I was performing an exorcism in Sicily, and this person started talking to me in Maltese.  

Another occurrence is that some of the possessed vomit things like nails and broken glass.

Do demons and spirits go by a name?

Either us or the Bible, give names to the demons, according to the role that they have. For example, Beelzebub is the god of flies. We also have other names like Asmodeus, Jezebelle and Aariel.

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