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When seminarians are trained for the priesthood, they are not initiated into the sacred rites of exorcism. While future priests or the recently ordained may attend a class or two on the study of angels, the performance of the exorcism rite is reserved to veteran priests who are appointed by the local bishop.
As the Roman Ritual explains, the priest who is chosen to be an exorcist “ought to be of mature years, and revered not alone for his office but for his moral qualities.”
Furthermore, “In order to exercise his ministry rightly, he should resort to a great deal more study of the matter.”
Who can become an exorcist?
Where does a priest study such a topic? Is there a special “exorcism school”?
Practically speaking, most exorcists around the world learn from personal study, in addition to their conversations with seasoned exorcists. This specific ministry is something that must be experienced firsthand in order to truly grasp it.
At the same time, in the past ten years the Sacerdos Institute in Rome has held an annual course on “Exorcism and the Prayer of Liberation” to help priests study this unique rite. The course description explains how it is “an academic and interdisciplinary research on the ministry of the exorcism and the prayer of liberation. The course covers a wide range of issues: anthropological, phenomenological, social, theological, liturgical, canonical, pastoral, spiritual, medical, neuroscientific, pharmacological, symbolic, criminological, legal and juridical ones.”
According to ANSA, it can be more simply described as a course “designed to teach priests, psychologists, teachers, doctors and other lay people how to differentiate between a bona fide case of possession by the devil and assorted psychiatric illnesses.”
As essential part of an exorcist’s ministry is the ability to distinguish the presence of the demonic from various medical conditions. This requires the help of psychologists and physicians who can give the priest an honest evaluation.
The rite of exorcism is never performed until all other scientific avenues are exhausted. Then and only then can the presence of demons be confirmed.
With the rise of various occult activities, exorcisms are on the rise and the need for qualified exorcists is increasing. It’s a special ministry, one that is not taken lightly.
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