The Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) is creating a document that regulates the casting out of demons. Patriarch Kirill (or Cyril), chairman of the Department for External Church Relations (DECR) of the Moscow Patriarchate Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokolamsk says that exorcism cannot be carried out by lay people, but it can be carried out a priest after being granted a special blessing from a bishop. The guide for exorcism is being created after the incidents of family members perfoming such rites were recorded.
“We do not think that lay people can do this, even if they have studied for some time at a theological seminary. In all, one must receive a blessing for this from his ruling bishop – this is stated in the document. The document also states that this activity should be free of charge, one should not take money for this,” the head of the DECR said on TV channel Russia-24 (Rossiya 24).
Patriarch Kirill noted that the document deals with the liturgical ranks of exorcism. “They are quite different in their content, and we give recommendations on which ranks can be used here,” Metropolitan Hilarion said.
In April, Metropolitan Hilarion told RIA Novosti that the Theology Commission of the Russian Orthodox Church had prepared a document regulating the practice of exorcism for consideration by the Inter-Council Presence. The Inter-Council Presence is an advisory body that assists the highest ecclesiastical authority of the ROC in preparing decisions concerning church life. Its task is also a preliminary study of the issues considered by the Local and Bishops’ Councils, and the preparation of draft decisions on these issues.
The Russian Orthodox Church strictly prohibits performing any type of exorcism on children. The church also has asked people to distinguish between mental health and demonic possession. In 2018, the Inter-Council Presence commission on theology and theological education had approved the creation of a document on ‘The Attitude to the Modern Practice of Exorcism by beads bidding’.
What the Gospel says about demons and possessed
Demons are repeatedly mentioned in the Gospels. Even the most important prayer of a Christian, commanded by Jesus Christ “Our Father”, ends with a request for deliverance from the unclean spirit: “But deliver us from the evil one.”
Christ in the Gospel not only repeatedly heals people from diseases, but also frees them from various demons. To mention at least the healing of Gadarin’s demon – incredibly fierce, whom “no chain bound.” When Jesus asked what the name of the unclean spirit was, he replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many” (Mark 5: 9).
The case when the disciples of Christ could not cast out the evil spirit that was in a sick teenager was also eloquent. When the disciples asked Christ, how He had managed to heal the demon, He replied, “This generation is only by prayer and fasting, and can be cast out” (Mark 9:29). And Jesus Christ commanded that “in my name shall they cast out devils” (Mark 16:17).
Vatican’s document of exorcism
The Vatican officially recognizes and approves of exorcism. Permission and blessing to cast out demons, to the priest must be given by the bishop. In 1999, the rules of exorcism, which had been in force since 1614, were revised and renewed. The document emphasizes the need to distinguish between demonic obsession and physical and mental illness. So the first thing a Catholic priest has to ask a layman who needs a reprimand is whether he went to the doctor.
The Vatican has revised and removed some definitions of the unclean. Satan is now described as a “spirit without form, color, and odor” – puro spirito. No hooves, horns, tail and hydrogen sulfide. The Ritual also mentions three main signs of mastering the sick of the devil: speaking foreign languages, the presence of superhuman strength, as well as knowledge of the secret events of the past and future. Since 2005 the Vatican has been conducting paid courses on exorcism. Anyone can learn to cast out demons for 460 euros.
The academics and exorcism
During the 15th course for exorcism held in Vatican in 2020, important research was presented for the first time, conducted by the Pontifical Institute Sakerdos in collaboration with the University of Bologna – one of the oldest universities in the world. Scientists together with theologians, during 2019-2020, tried to study the topic of exorcism, because there are no international statistics on this. A survey of 160 Italian dioceses said they had at least one official exorcist. During the collection and processing of information, it was also found that there were also those who engaged in this practice illegally, that is, without the permission of the bishop.