Pope Francis has given support to the work of exorcists in the Catholic church, after a group of priests who claim to save people from demons were officially recognised under canon law.
The International Association of Exorcists, a group of 250 priests battling the forces of evil across 30 countries, has now had its statutes approved by the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy, the church’s newspaper L'Osservatore Romano reported.
It gives legal recognition to the performance of an exorcism, and was a cause for joy – according to the head of the association.
The Reverend Francesco Bamonte told L'Osservatore: “Exorcism is a form of charity that benefits those who suffer.”
More than many of his predecessors, Pope Francis likes to encourages the personification of Satan and speaks frequently about the Devil’s work.
Last year he was captured in astonishing footage placing his hands on the head of a boy in a wheelchair, reciting an intense prayer until the boy slumped down exhaling sharply.
At the time La Repubblica quoted an exorcism expert saying: “It was a prayer of liberation from evil or even a real exorcism.” The Vatican has downplayed the incident, saying it was simply 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”.
Video: Pope Francis reportedly performed an exorcism
Earlier this year, a number of Catholic churches across Italy and Spain were reported to have recruited at least 18 priests between them to tackle “an unprecedented rise in cases of demonic possession”.
Rev Bamonte then told La Repubblica: “Diabolical possessions are on the increase as a result of people subscribing to occultism.
“The few exorcists that we have in the dioceses are often not able to handle the enormous number of requests for help.”