The Vatican has given official backing to exorcists by formally acknowledging the International Association of Exorcists, a group of 250 Catholic priests in 30 countries who claim to free demons from human bodies.
According to L'Osservatore Romano, the official Vatican newspaper, this approval means that the Vatican's Congregation for Clergy has approved the IAE's statutes and recognized the group under canon law.
This move by the Holy See comes amid growing reports on the Catholic Church’s renewed interest in exorcism. Unlike his predecessors, Pope Francis makes frequent references to the devil. Last year, many saw his laying on of hands on a man allegedly possessed by demons as an act of purgation.
The church believes that demonic cases are on the rise because more people are exploring the dark arts (black magic and a host of other “satanic rituals”) with the help of information readily available on the Internet. Across Italy and Spain, dioceses are schooling more priests in administering exorcism rites. Training more priests in this field is also part of the church’s effort to sideline self-proclaimed exorcists.
“Diabolical possessions are on the increase as a result of people subscribing to occultism,” Father Francesco Bamonte, the president of the Italy-based IAE, told the Telegraph. The church insists that many who claim to be possessed are suffering from psychological ailments like depression, and priests urge them to receive medical care. But in rare cases where a demonic possession is established (after the victim shows certain symptoms that meet the church’s criteria), consecrated priests and experts like Bamonte are authorized to perform what Bamonte describes as “a form of charity” to those who suffer.