Casting out demons "is a form of charity that benefits those who suffer," says head of group.
The Vatican has formally recognized the International Association of Exorcists.
L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, said Tuesday that the Congregation for Clergy had approved the statutes of the association, a group of 250 priests in 30 countries, and recognized the body under canon law.
Pope Francis speaks frequently about the devil, and last year was seen placing his hands on the head of a man who was reportedly possessed, AP said. The Pope was praying a prayer of liberation from Satan, exorcists said at the time.
Father Francesco Bamonte, head of the International Association of Exorcists, said the Vatican approval was cause for joy. "Exorcism is a form of charity that benefits those who suffer," he told L’Osservatore Romano.
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,” said the UK’s Independent newspaper.
Father Bamonte told La Repubblica at the time, “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.”