The Catholic leader has a new message to his clergy over some practices relating to exorcism.
Pope Francis has advised Catholic priests “not to hesitate” in utilizing professional exorcists if they encounter people experiencing “genuine spiritual disturbances” through confessions or observations.
Speaking before the hundreds of priests at an annual course organized by the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Vatican court, which deals with issues concerning the sacrament of confession, Pope Francis urged priests to refer people to exorcists if they suspect demonic activity is at work.
However, the pontiff urged confessors to exercise caution when determining whether a person is suffering from a mental disorder or demonic influences, advising priests to work with psychological professionals when coming to a decision.
Furthermore, the 80-year-old pontiff said that if a confessor does recognize the presence of evil spirits, they must not hesitate in referring that afflicted person to an exorcist.
In a report of Catholic News, disorders can be caused by all manner of circumstances, including supernatural ones, the pontiff said, describing exorcism as a “sensitive and necessary ministry,” Catholic News reports.
In 1999, when the Vatican issued revised guidelines on the practice of exorcism, in which it warned against confusing mental illness with possession.
According to the guide, exorcism should only be attempted after medical and psychiatric approaches have been explored.
Meanwhile, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops describes exorcism as “a specific form of prayer that the Church uses against the power of the devil.”
Despite attempting to modernize many aspects of the Church, Pope Francis speaks more about the devil than his recent predecessors, regularly characterizing Satan as an evil, physical, presence in the world.
“Anyone who does not pray to the Lord prays to the devil,” he warned in his first homily as pope.
The Argentinian Pope described the 2016 murder of French priest Father Jacques Hamel at the hands of jihadists as a satanic act, and has also compared the sexual abuse of children by priests to participation in a satanic mass.
Last 2014, the Vatican formally recognized the International Association of Exorcists, shortly after Francis became the leader of the Church. The association, which has approximately 250 priests operating in 30 countries, even has a newsletter in which members can describe particularly interesting or difficult cases.