Here's What Happens During A Vatican Exorcism

William Friedkin, director of the 1973 film "The Exorcist," often pondered how close he was to being 100% authentic and realistic in terms of portraying an exorcism on the screen. He reported for Vanity Fair 2016, describing how he followed the Vatican's Father Gabriele Amorth, "the dean of exorcists," as the priest attempted to expel the devil from the soul of an Italian woman, Rosa (not her real name). Friedkin's documentary "The Devil and Father Amorth" was released in 2017.

For Rosa, this was the ninth time she had come to the Vatican for treatment. Father Amorth believed her afflictions were brought on by her brother's girlfriend, who was believed to be a witch, and the two of them were members of a demonic cult.

Father Amorth called upon St. Joseph, Father Candido Amantini (the late priest who had been Rome's chief exorcist), Padre Pio (a mystic, declared a saint in 2002), and the Virgin Mary, asking them all for protection. At the beginning, Rosa's head began to rock, as her eyes rolled back and she fell into a trance. The priest then began to quote Latin to better communicate with the infestation.

This went on for hours. Exhausted, she eventually lost consciousness, but awoke to throw her body violently as she foamed at the mouth. Father Amorth then called on the black magic and Satanic influence he believed were there to leave. The family all helped hold her down as she continued to curse and scream.

There is a curriculum for exorcisms directed by the Vatican

When Friedkin asked Rosa how she felt and whether each session has helped, she stated, "Each time it feels like I'm becoming free. I can feel the devil suffering inside of me now" (via Vanity Fair).

There is a Catholic ritual used for exorcisms. Priests must perform exorcisms wearing a purple stole, and have both holy water and a Bible handy, all while drawing the sign of the cross along the possessed's forehead many times. The priest will call on saints, pray, and read excerpts from the Bible to help drive the demon out.

In 2018, the Vatican opened its doors to 250 priests from 50 countries, all arriving in Rome to learn how to better identify demonic possession and learn the ritualsĀ  used to expel demons from people. Though controversial, because of the way exorcisms are depicted on screen and in pop culture, there indeed have been cases of abuse, resulting in ridicule for the church.

The weeklong course includes a series of lectures, visual and audio displays and prayers of liberation. The cost of $370 goes toward learning the psychological, anthropological and theological backgrounds of exorcisms. The reason for exorcisms, dating all the way back to 1614, is to better distinguish between what is actually demonic possession and what might be physical or psychological illness.

As of 2017, more than 500,000 people, from across the globe, each year, seek the help of a Catholic exorcist (via BBC News). An exorcism can only be conducted with the approval of the local bishop.