The Vatican has given its official approval to a worldwide association of exorcists.
L’Osservatore Romano revealed Tuesday that the International Association of Exorcists has received canonical approval from the Congregation for Clergy. The decree was signed on June 13th.
The group is made up of 250 priests from 30 countries who minister as exorcists. It was originally founded in Italy in 1991 by Father Gabriel Amorth, the most prominent exorcist in Rome, and expanded internationally from 1994.
Father Amorth has been asking for the Vatican’s support for many years and has criticized the rare appointment of exorcists by bishops, leaving many people without the help they need.
Father Francesco Bamonte, the organization's leader, said the canonical approval by the Holy See "is a source of joy not only for us members, but for the whole Church.”
He said God calls some priests "to this valuable ministry of exorcism and deliverance," with the task of accompanying “with humility, faith and charity people in need of a specific spiritual and pastoral care” and to support and encourage them on the "path of liberation and to revive their hope."
Father Bamonte added that he hopes "other priests are aware of this dramatic reality, often ignored or underestimated."
“Exorcism is a form of charity, for the benefit of people who suffer," he said. "It is, without a doubt, one of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy."
During his pontificate, Pope Francis has frequently mentioned the devil. Last year he laid his hands on the head of a man purportedly possessed by four demons. The Vatican denied it was a formal exorcism; exorcists said it was instead a prayer of liberation from Satan.