In 2014 the Vatican's first ever official conference of exorcists slammed “evil” Halloween and its occult associations and asked that it be scrapped in favor of “Holyween” where children take part in prayer vigils and dress up as saints. Two years on, it seems that it didn't take off.
Halloween’s origins date back to the pre-Christian Celtic festival of Samhain, also known as All Hallow’s Eve or the Day of the Dead. The Celts divided their calendar into four seasons and Halloween marked the midway point between the Fall Equinox and the Winter Solstice – a scary time of year! However, nowadays Halloween has more to do with trick-or-treating and dressing up, although not according to the Catholic Church.
Back in 2014 the International Association of Exorcists said they wanted to see Halloween banned due to a spike in occult activity around the holiday. Father Aldo Buonaiuto said the organization's emergency number receives around 40 calls a day around October 31. The most common are calls from parents who are concerned that their child has become involved in the supernatural.
Buonaiuto said, “Many say Halloween is a simple carnival, but in fact there is nothing innocent or fun about it – it is the antechamber to something much more dangerous.
"There are always more evil rituals, animal sacrifices, desecrations of cemeteries and thefts of sacred bones" at Halloween.
The exorcists claim that Halloween is the 'best time of year' for sects to recruit new members.
"From here the door to the devil can be opened. For this reason it’s necessary for us to speak out and not play down the danger," Buonaiuto added.
To try and counteract this the Catholic Church in Italy has launched “Holyween.” This anti-Halloween celebration will include masses, prayer vigils and the celebration of the saints and triumph of good over evil.
Buonaiuto added, “While most people are steeped in zombies and horror we put on our door or windows a light or an image evocative of the saints.”
The International Association of Exorcists was officially recognized by the Vatican in June 2014.
Pope Francis told the conference they must treat those possessed with "kindness."
In a note to the gathering he wrote, “Those who perform this particular ministry, in conjunction with the bishops," must work "with love and kindness from the church towards those who suffer because of the evil one.”
Pope Francis speaks about the works of the Devil more than his predecessors did and in 2014 there were rumors that the new Pope carried out an exorcism in St. Peter’s Square. However, many dismissed this saying that he was simply bestowing a blessing on a sick man.
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Pope Francis isn’t the only pope in recent times to try to put a dampener on Halloween fun. In 2009 Pope Benedict also spoke out against the fall celebrations calling them anti-Christian and dangerous.
Even back then Bonaiuto, who was then the head of the Catholic Church's anti-occult and sect unit, warned parents that Halloween “promotes the culture of death.”
He said, “Halloween pushes new generations towards a mentality of esoteric magic and it attacks sacred and spiritual values through a devious initiation to the art and images of the occult. At best, it gives a big helping hand to consumerism and materialism.”
Should Catholics turn their back on Halloween celebrations? Let us know your views below.
* Originally published in 2014. Updated in 2016.