Exorcisms got a status boost this week, after the Vatican granted formal recognition to the International Association of Exorcists (IAE) on Tuesday.
According to the Associated Press, the Holy See’s media outlet L’Osservatore Romano said the exorcism organization now has “legal status as an international private association of the faithful,” as well as canon law recognition.
Pope Francis and the Vatican officially made their decision on June 13. IAE brings together 250 priests from 30 countries around the world, with international meetings held to share ideas, discuss cases, and address best practices as they relate to exorcism.
Father Francesco Bamonte, the association's president, reportedly told L’Osservatore Romano that the approval was “cause for joy” and hoped “that priests would take stock of this dramatic reality which is often ignored or underestimated.”
IAE got its start as an Italian organization in 1991, growing quickly into an international consortium.
'When we dismantle God in public discourse and replace God with the variety of pagan practices, we’re inviting demons.'
“The church has been exorcising people since the time of Christ,” Father Gary Thomas, a priest in Saratoga, California, who has been performing exorcisms since 2005, told VICE News. “I would think anytime the Vatican gives acknowledgement to a group it raises the bar and significance of that group.”
Father Thomas, who just recently joined the IAE, was a bit surprised about the news, but explained that Pope Francis frequently speaks about Satan, which falls in line with this move.
According to Thomas, exorcism started to really garner attention when Pope John Paul II issued a mandate for every diocese to have a priest trained in the ritual ministry in 2004.
Thomas provided us with an extensive run-down of societal factors that have increased the need for exorcisms. Primarily, he said that occult, new age, and pagan practices have become very prevalent in Europe and the US, thus inviting demonic influences.
“When we dismantle God in public discourse and replace God with the variety of pagan practices, we’re inviting demons,” he said. “We’re opening the doors for spirits and demons to have a much greater influence in the lives of people.”
Thomas has performed exorcisms on a dozen people and even had his experience turned into a book and Hollywood movie The Rite, starring Anthony Hopkins. He said the movie was fairly accurate in its portrayal of exorcism, but that for the most part the church tries to focus on the patient, not the drama. Thomas explained that it's important not to "make these things bigger than life."
“People get attracted to the drama and forget there’s a person who’s suffering, it’s a ministry of healing,” he said. “It’s about the suffering people, but this is real, Satan is the real deal.”
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