Henry Samuel in Paris
1:27PM BST 30 Mar 2011
The body, which meets in secret every two years was founded in 1993 by Father Gabriele Amorth, the official exorcist of Vatican City in the Diocese of Rome, with the aim of increasing the number of official exorcists worldwide.
Since 2005, Catholic priests can sign up to learn how to cast away evil spirits from the possessed at the Vatican-backed college, the Athenaeum Pontificium Regina Apostolorum in Rome.
It runs a two-month course to teach the "spiritual, liturgical and pastoral work involved in being an exorcist."
According to Father Giulio Savoldi, Milan's official exorcist, requirements include "the supernatural force – the presence of God – and then suggest that the man picked to do this kind of work be wise and that he should know how to gather strength not just from within himself but from God." The Roman Catholic's new Exorcism Rite, which was updated in 1999 for the first time since 1614, stresses the importance of distinguishing who is really in need of an exorcism.
Father Savoldi said: "Those studying to become exorcists should also study psychology and know how to distinguish between a mental illness and a possession. And, finally, they need to be very patient." He said the priest who undertakes the office should be himself a holy man, of a blameless life, intelligent, courageous, humble. He should avoid in the course of the rite anything resembling superstition and he should leave the medical aspects of the case to qualified physicians.
The exorcism should take place in the church or some other sacred place, but can be done in a private house with witnesses.
All idle and curious questioning of the demon should be avoided, and the prayers and aspirations should be read with great faith, humility and fervor, and with a consciousness of power and authority.
The crucifix, holy water, and, where available, relics of the saints are to be employed during exorcism. If expulsion of the evil spirit is not obtained at once, the rite should be repeated, if need be, several times.
The exorcist should be vested in cassock, surplice, and a violet stole.