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Friday, 24 November, 2000, 01:57 GMT
Vatican lays down exorcism law
St Peter's
The Vatican wants to control a charismatic bishop
The Catholic Church has issued strict new rules governing exorcism - the casting out of devils.

Vatican insiders say the guidelines - which include getting permission from a bishop, and discouraging media coverage - are aimed at controlling a popular African bishop who lives in Rome.


Anything resembling hysteria, artificiality, theatricality or sensationalism should be absent

Vatican guidelines
Emmanuel Milingo, now 70, was summoned to Rome 18 years ago from his native Zambia when European missionaries complained that he was using the practices of African witchdoctors.

The Vatican believed it could keep a closer eye on Archbishop Milingo there, and put him in a flat next door to the Apostolic Palace.

But his services, which sometimes include faith-healing and exorcism, have gained him a wide following in Europe.

Following Jesus

Mr Milingo says that as a priest he is following the example of Jesus, who performed exorcisms.

Vatican attempts to ban him from preaching in Rome and Milan have merely led him to hold masses elsewhere.

It's not clear what Rome will be able to do if the bishop flouts the new 17-page guidelines issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The "instruction" from the Vatican says that it is legitimate to pray for relief from suffering, but says that exorcisms must be carried out according to the letter of the law laid down in 1999 - the first update of the exorcism service since 1614.

The rules also specify that group meetings to pray for healing should not be organised around the cult of an individual, which Vatican observers see as a clear reference to Mr Milingo.

In September, Mr Milingo, who has had repeated run-ins with Church authorities, was quietly stripped of his job in a Vatican department.

Control

The new guidelines say the atmosphere at exorcisms must be kept under control.

"Anything resembling hysteria, artificiality, theatricality or sensationalism should be absent from such gatherings, above all on the part of those who are in charge," one said.

The official Roman Catholic exorcism starts with prayers, the blessing and sprinkling of holy water, the laying of hands on the possessed, and the making of the sign of the cross.

It ends with an "imperative formula" in which the devil is ordered to leave the possessed.

The formula begins: "I order you, Satan..." It goes on to denounce Satan as "prince of the world" and "enemy of human salvation".

It ends: "Go back, Satan."

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27 Apr 00 | UK
Exorcism enters a new age
13 Oct 99 | Africa
Child witches in the Congo
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