The Vatican has officially recognized a leading association of demonologists, despite debates in the Catholic Church over the impact of exorcism rites. The decision stems from the faith of Pope Francis, who appears to believe in a literal Satan.
The endorsement of the International Association of Exorcists, which counts around 250 members from 30 countries in its ranks, was announced in the Vatican’s mouthpiece L’Osservatore Romano.
The organization – considered the most respectable practitioners of a rite that is widely performed around the world – was formed by the charismatic priest Gabriele Amorth in 1991. The 88-year-old, whose favorite film is The Exorcist, has claimed to have expelled more than 150,000 evil spirits, since completing his training nearly three decades ago.
While some of his exorcisms can be performed by a simple prayer following an appeal, others involve months-long investigations, and lengthy rituals involving loud recitations of saints’ names, holy water and crucifixes.
Symptoms suffered by patients vary, but typically include hallucinations, speaking in tongues, uncontrollable tremors, and less frequently, vomiting improbable amounts of bodily fluids, and even inedible objects, such as nails and pieces of electronic equipment.
The causes? Amorth’s chief bugbear is the occult – which he says has infiltrated popular culture, aided by the internet – but also phenomena regarded as relatively innocuous, such as yoga and Harry Potter, which he has said provide a gateway to full-on Satan-worship.