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Vatican regulates abuses in faith healing and exorcisms
    The Vatican is clamping down on abuses in faith healing and exorcism, to couinter sensationalism, theatricality and 'anything resembling hysteria'.
    A document released by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith says bishops should closely supervise such practices.
    It noted that prayer for the restoration of health is part of the Christian experience, with the New Testament speaking of Christ's encounters with the sick and his healing through miracles.
    What is new, the document said, is the 'proliferation of prayer meetings' for the purpose of obtaining healing from God. "In many cases, the occurrence of healings has been proclaimed, giving rise to the expectation of the same phenomenon in other such gatherings."
    The document stated that if healing did take place, witness testimony must be submitted to church authorities. The Vatican also said that, in addition to ensuring that faith healing sessions are free of sensationalism, bishops must decide whether such gatherings can be open for television coverage.
    The document did not indicate the extent of abuses, and a Vatican official did not immediately respond to a request for clarification. Nor did the document cite names or movements within the church.
    The director of
International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services Oreste Pesare welcomed the instruction, telling the Italian news agency ANSA that it is "important that the laity understand that the Church does not want to suffocate the movements, but seeks their growth and maturation".
    The Vatican recently removed the former archbishop of Lusaka, Zambia, Emmanuel Milingo, from his position as special delegate on immigration issues. Since coming to Rome in the early 1980s, he has attracted thousands of people from across Europe seeking cures for cancer and AIDS, and has also performed exorcisms.
    New guidelines issued by the Vatican last year urged exorcists not to mistake psychiatric illness for satanic possession. In September, a Rome newspaper said the Pope tried to exorcise the devil from a young woman who appeared to be possessed during a general audience. The Vatican said the Pope comforted her, but did not confirm he performed an exorcism.
    The document approved by the Vatican said the ritual must be performed under close supervision by the local bishop. It also stipulated that prayers of exorcism must remain separate from healing services and such prayers must not be included in the celebration of Mass.