The Vatican announced this week that it had recognized a group of 250 exorcists from around the world, collectively known as the International Association of Exorcists, under canon law. The blessings of the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church now gives the group of priests operating in 30 countries, the legal backing to operate with church approval.
ABC News reported July 3 that the organization regularly performs exorcisms, acts where demons and unholy spirits are cast out of an individual said to be possessed. According to the news outlet, a member of the International Association of Exorcists has resided at the Vatican for years and that the organization itself has been around since 1990. However, they were never formally recognized.
Formal recognition of the exorcists was announced in the Vatican's official newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, on Tuesday.
One of the organization's co-founding priests, Rev. Gabriele Amorth, said in a 2010 interview that he had treated up to 70,000 demonic possessions throughout his career. He says that the devil is not everywhere, "but when he is present it is painful."
Amorth carries with him a little satchel full of items reportedly vomited up by the demon-possessed: nails, pieces of glass, pieces of metal.
Amorth, who regularly speaks publicly about exorcism, said he believes exorcisms are the most effective way to fight the works of the devil, and he believes that priests should become exorcists.
"I believe bishops who don't appoint exorcists are committing a mortal sin," he said during the 2010 interview.
Amorth says even the Vatican has witnessed the presence of the devil. He believes that when Pope John Paul II was shot in 1981 and when Pope Benedict XVI was pushed at 2009 Christmas Eve mass by a female spectator, these were as acts of the devil, of those possessed.
And now Rev. Amorth has an ally against the devil in Pope Francis.
According to L'Osservatore Romano (per Newser), Pope Francis placed his hands on the head of a man purportedly possessed by four demons last year. This act is what exorcists say is a prayer of liberation from Satan, noted the newspaper.
And although the existence of demons might be somewhat questionable and scientifically unprovable, a survey conducted using a sample population of nearly 1,900 self-described Christians by The Barna Group found that two out of three Christians agreed that demonic and/or evil spirit influence is real (39% agreed strongly, 25% agreed somewhat).
It appears that the services of the International Association of Exorcists just might be in demand after all...