Pope Francis grants official recognition to exorcists

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The International Association of Exorcists was officially recognized by the Vatican which gave its blessing to the group consisting of 250 priests across 30 countries that claim they are saving the possessed from demons and Satan. The Vatican’s L’Osservatore Romano newspaper announced on Thursday that the association’s practice of exorcism received Pope Francis’ full support. Its work is now approved by the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy and recognized under canon law, AFP reports the church’s newspaper L’Osservatore Romano as saying.

This was a cause for great joy, as the performance of exorcism became legal, said the head of the association Francesco Bamonte.

According to L’Osservatore, the Reverend Francesco said that “exorcism is a form of charity that benefits those who suffer.”

Pope Francis encourages the image of Satan to be personified and frequently reminds  people of the need to fight the devil’s work.

The previous year, he was captured in extraordinary footage placing his hands on the head of an invalid boy in a wheelchair, who appeared to sharply exhale and slump in his seat at Francis’ recital of a prayer.

At the time exorcists, quoted by La Repubblica, claimed this action to have freed the victim from the devil’s possession, with an expert saying that “it was a prayer of liberation from evil or even a real exorcism.” The Vatican, on the other hand, has downplayed the episode, saying it was only a prayer.

The Catholic Encyclopedia defines exorcism as “the act of driving out, or warding off, demons, or evil spirits, from persons, places, or things, which are believed to be possessed or infested by them, or are liable to become victims or instruments of their malice.”

The first recorded association of exorcists was founded by Father Gabriele Amorth, a member of the Society of St. Paul and the Holy See’s chief exorcist for almost 30 years. By March 2010 he claimed to have performed up to 70,000 exorcisms and has described intense sessions with possessed people who blaspheme, scream and even spit shards of glass.

In 1991 Father Gabriele formed an Italian exorcists association, organized meetings with the likeminded from other countries which eventually lead to the establishment of the international group.

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