VATICAN CITY – Exorcists now have a legal weapon at their disposal.
The Vatican has formally recognized the International Association of Exorcists, a group of 250 priests in 30 countries who liberate the faithful from demons.
The Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano reported Tuesday that the Vatican's Congregation for Clergy had approved the organization's statutes and recognized the group under canon law.
More than his predecessors, Pope Francis speaks frequently about the devil, and last year was seen placing his hands on the head of a man purportedly possessed by four demons in what exorcists said was a prayer of liberation from Satan.
The head of the association, the Rev. Francesco Bamonte, said the Vatican approval was cause for joy. "Exorcism is a form of charity that benefits those who suffer," he told L'Osservatore.
The International Association of Exorcists was founded in 1990 by six priests including the world-famous exorcist Father Gabriele Amorth, 88, an Italian priest who is reputed to have cleansed tens of thousands of demonic possessions.
By 2000 there were over two hundred members listed with the association, which meets biannually in Rome. The association sends out a quarterly newsletter where members can tell of particularly difficult or interesting cases.
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.