Exorcism: prayers against ‘powers of darkness’ published by US bishops

‘At no time should the exorcist be alone with an afflicted member of the faithful’

The first official English-language translation of the rite of exorcism has been approved by the Catholic Bishops of the United States but will only be available to bishops or those approved by them.

These latter include "exorcists, clergy, scholars and seminary professors", according to the document Exorcisms and Related Supplications.

It contains an appendix of prayers that can be used by anyone and these have been published by the bishops as Prayers Against the Powers of Darkness.

The original Latin document for the rite of exorcism, De Exorcismis et Supplicantioibus Quibusdam, has been the official text used by priests since 1999.


Prayers against the Powers of Darkness is described on the US Bishops' website as a "small pocket-sized book" that "will assist the Christian faithful in their struggle against the infernal enemy (the Devil)."

Explaining symbols used in the Rite of Major Exorcism, the document says that: "To begin, water is blessed and sprinkled recalling the centrality of the new life the afflicted person received in Baptism and the ultimate defeat of the devil through the salvific work of Jesus Christ.

“The imposition of hands, as well as the breathing on the person’s face (exsufflation) by the exorcist, reaffirms the power of the Holy Spirit at work in the person as a result of his/her Baptism, confirming him/her as a temple of God.

“Finally, the Lord’s Cross is shown to the afflicted person and the Sign of the Cross is made over him/her demonstrating the power of Christ over the devil.”

They strongly recommend “against the exorcist working in isolation” and that the rite take place “in an oratory or other appropriate place (for example, a small chapel) discreetly hidden from plain view” as “it is to the advantage of the exorcist whenever possible to utilize a place that is dedicated to God’s honor and not the home of the afflicted person.”

When the “afflicted member of the faithful is female, there should be at least one other female present for the sake of propriety and discretion,” and “at no time should the exorcist be alone with an afflicted member of the faithful.”

It “strongly suggested that the identity of the exorcist be kept secret or at most known only to the other priests of the diocese so as not to overwhelm the exorcist with random calls and inquiries”.

An exorcism was “to be celebrated only by a bishop or a priest who has obtained the special and express permission of the diocesan bishop,” while “a priest may be appointed to the office of exorcist” by a bishop and work under his direction.

Such a priest should possess qualities of “piety, knowledge, prudence, and integrity of life”, have “a solid theological and spiritual foundation,” and be trained “through an apprenticeship model, working under the direction of an experienced exorcist”.

In Ireland the Catholic Church requires each diocese to have a trained exorcist but "exorcisms are very rare here," a spokeswoman for the Irish bishops said.

Speaking last week to Tara Brady, film critic with The Irish Times, Katie Crosby of the Catholic Communications Office in Maynooth said "this office has not been made aware of any cases of 'exorcism' in Ireland in recent years,"

Tara Brady contacted Maynooth in the context of the new Italian documentary Libera Nos (Deliver Us), a portrait of an exorcist priest in Italy.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times