In the year 2004, the Institute Sacerdos of the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum and the Gris – Group of Socio-Religious Research and Information, concretely started the realization of this course. Starting from the year 2013, the International Association of Exorcists, whose president since 2004 was one of the speakers joined these two entities.
In the first two editions, in the academic years 2004-2005 and 2005-2006, the course took place over a period of 4 months, to then be proposed in an intensive manner within a week from 2007: this to meet the numerous requests that came from every part of the world. In 2008, it was decided to take a sabbatical year of reflection to reconsider the organization of the course, having regard to the enormous international media impact that it had since its first edition, by also making the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum known all over the world.
In 2009, it was taken up again with the fourth edition. The numerous requests for registration, coming from different nations, revealed the validity of the intuition to focus on training to respond to a real need, expressed both by the faithful and by the priests.
The fifth edition anticipated the release of the film “The Rite“, which took place at the beginning of 2011, almost in conjunction with the sixth edition, interpreted by Anthony Hopkins, produced by New Line and distributed by Warner Bros. This film is inspired to the assay of 2009 The Rite. The Making of a Modern Exorcist (The rite. The true story of an exorcist today) of the journalist Matt Baglio, that participated in the first editions of the course at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum: in the film, in fact, reference is also made to this course.
The seventh edition, which was held in 2012, saw the participation of 205 persons; the eighth 182; the ninth 176; the tenth 167; the eleventh 218 coming from 33 nations; the current sees around 250 members from 40 countries. The average for the last six editions is approximately 200 registrations.
After the eleventh edition, the docu-film “Release me” produced by director Federica Di Giacomo who participated to the tenth course doing filming and interviewing some participants, was presented to the public. Even in that film reference was made to this course.
What characterizes this academic initiative is the multidisciplinary approach, in fact the theme of Exorcism is addressed under different aspects: theological, canonical, anthropological, phenomenological, sociological, medical, pharmacological, psychological, legal, criminological. This setting, which ratified the success, allows a wide range formation, unique in the panorama of the university courses.
Various are the novelties of this year, here I highlight only some of them: a discussion forum on the films “Release me” and “the Rite”; the report of the Card. Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, on the role of Mary in the fight against Satan; the report of Mons. Erio Castellucci, Archbishop of Modena-Nonantola, on the power of the Bishop to repel the unclean spirits; the sociological survey of Prof. Giuseppe Giordana, of the University of Padua, conducted on the large archive of Mons. Sante Babolin, Professor Emeritus of the Pontifical Gregorian University and an exorcist of the diocese of Padua.
I would also add, in this synthetic presentation, two brief comments, which I hope can be a cue for in depth analysis during the course. The first concern the interest that some young people show for a particular type of Satanism the so-called “Spiritual Satanism” that apparently presents itself in an appealing and harmless manner. This Satanism sees in Satan/Lucifer, a real being, a good and positive figure that opposes the ignorance. For it, Satan is a beautiful being, with which it is possible to have a personal relationship, and he is the real father and creator of humanity; demons are considered friends of humanity and give individual attention and protection, moreover satanism would not relate to the evil but to the elevation and the strengthening of humanity, while the God of the Judeo-Christian tradition is seen as a fictitious and negative entity.
This Satanism presents itself on the network under different symbols, but the beauty and the positivity of which he is the bearer, lead as a confirmation of the inconsistency of these environments, in rituals of destruction of the enemies and of the people from whom it is believed to have suffered offenses. Some testimonies of people who have approached naively this type of satanism highlighted the onset of existential and spiritual problems solvable only by having recourse to the intervention of the exorcist.
The second consideration refers to the fact that in the field of exorcism and prayer of liberation a strong preparation is always more needed to avoid intellectual drifts and practices which are not permitted by canonical norms. In this regard, I would like to mention the Letter to the Ordinaries regarding rules on exorcisms, of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, of 29 September 1985, written to invoke and clarify some of the norms of canon law to keep in mind in front of the increase of certain ecclesiastic groups who, under the guidance of the laics, meet in order to make supplications with the specific aim to obtain the liberation from the influence of demons.
These are the words of the then Prefect, Card. Joseph Ratzinger: “The canon 1172 of the Code of Canon Law declares that no one can legitimately utter exorcisms on obsessed people if he has not obtained from the Ordinary of the place a special and express license (…) the faithful are not authorized to use the formula of the exorcism against Satan and against the rebel angels, extracted from the ones published by order of the Supreme Pontiff Leo XIII and much less can be permitted to them to use the full text of this exorcism (…) the bishops are invited to ensure that (…) those who do not have proper faculty do not officiate meetings during which prayers in the progress of which the demons are directly interrogated to know their identity are used to obtain the liberation. Recalling these standards, however, must not keep the faithful from pray so that, as Jesus taught us, they are freed from evil”.
Giuseppe Ferrari, opening speech of the course of the International Association of Exorcists