The CommissionDiocesan Commission on Occult and Satanism
Some people including practicing Catholics might ask:
Is the Diocesan Commission on Occult and Satanism really necessary?
Are we imagining things here in Malta?
Is the Church in Malta taking things too far?
We understand that it is very difficult to come to terms with subjects like personified evil, oppression and possession by demons, fallen angels, occult etc., and at the same time it is very easy to percieve them as something coming out of a fantasy world. Therefore, it is our duty to present basic information which we hope will help visitors of this website to understand why this Commission, and equivalent entities in different countries across the globe, were and are still being established.
The work of the Evil One is a reality and the Devil's extraordinary influences are a reality too. Indeed, paragraph 1673 of the Cathecism of the Catholic Church cleary shows how concrete these matters are, and how seriously the Holy See deals with them:
When the Church asks publicly and authoritatively in the name of Jesus Christ that a person or object be protected against the power of the Evil One and withdrawn from his dominion, it is called exorcism. Jesus performed exorcisms and from him the Church has received the power and office of exorcizing. In a simple form, exorcism is performed at the celebration of Baptism. The solemn exorcism, called "a major exorcism," can be performed only by a priest and with the permission of the bishop. The priest must proceed with prudence, strictly observing the rules established by the Church. Exorcism is directed at the expulsion of demons or to the liberation from demonic possession through the spiritual authority which Jesus entrusted to his Church. Illness, especially psychological illness, is a very different matter; treating this is the concern of medical science. Therefore, before an exorcism is performed, it is important to ascertain that one is dealing with the presence of the Evil One, and not an illness.
In his apostolic exhortation, “Gaudete et Exsultate” (“Rejoice and Be Glad” - released by the Vatican on April 9, 2018), Pope Francis sheds more light by urging Christians not to think of the devil as an intangible construct but rather “a personal being who assails us.”
The Pope also said, “We should not think of the devil as a myth, a representation, a symbol, a figure of speech or an idea …..This mistake would leave us to let down our guard, to grow careless and end up more vulnerable.” .
In his discourse at the general audience of August 13, 1986 (On The Devil), Pope St. John Paul II, said:
"In Sacred Scripture we find various indications of this influence on man and on the dispositions of his spirit (and of his body). In the Bible, Satan is called the `prince of this world' (cf. Jn. 12:31; 14:30; 16:11) and even the `god of this world' (2 Cor. 4:4). . . .
According to Sacred Scripture, and especially the New Testament, the dominion and the influence of Satan and of the other evil spirits embraces all the world. . . . The action of Satan consists primarily in tempting men to evil, by influencing their imaginations and higher faculties, to turn them away from the law of God. . . . It is possible that in certain cases the evil spirit goes so far as to exercise his influence not only on material things, but even on man's body, so that one can speak of ‘diabolical possession’ (cf. Mk. 5:2-9). It is not always easy to discern the preternatural factor operative in these cases, and the Church does not lightly support the tendency to attribute many things to the direct action of the devil; but in principle it cannot be denied that Satan can go to this extreme manifestation of his superiority in his will to harm and to lead to evil.
To conclude, we must add that the impressive words of the Apostle John 'The whole world lies under the power of the evil one’ (1 Jn. 5:19) - allude also to the presence of Satan in the history of humanity, a presence which becomes all the more acute when man and society depart from God."
It is also worth noting that demand for exorcisms and other liberation prayers has been on the increase. Indeed, since 2004, the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University in Rome, offered annual courses, to priests and other professionals from around the world, titled Exorcism and Prayers for Liberation. Topics discussed are angels and demons in Holy Scripture, how to recognise diabolical obsessions, witchcraft in Africa; Afro-American cults in Latin America, and paedophile pornography used in Satanic and occult rites. Priests, psychologists, theologians and criminologists from over 50 countries usually attend this course.
In Malta the situation is no different, in the sense that the Maltese Diocese takes these matters very seriously. Infact, way back on the 13th April 1995 the Archbishop of Malta, Joseph Mercieca, established the Diocesan Commission on Occult and Satanism (Kummisjoni Djocesan dwar l-Okkult u s-Satanizmu - KOS) by Decree. Since then its mission has been to:
- Study occultism, spiritism and satanism from a theological stand point and take also into consideration natural phenomena pertaining to psychology, psychiatry and parasychology, which could help authentic discernment;
- Keep the Archbishop informed about what is taking place;
- Give advice about any possible pastoral activity in the circumstances;
- Help members of the Church in Malta facing such problems.
All members of the Commission are appointed by the Archbishop of Malta. The first members appointed by the late Archbishop Mons. Joseph Mercieca were:
- President: Fr Elias Vella OFM Conv.
- Secretary: Fr Marcello Ghirlando OFM
- Member: Fr Joseph Borg SJ
- Member Fr Hugh Cremona OP
Fr Cremona and Fr Borg passed away in 2014 and 2018, respectively.
Furthermore, with a decree dated 1 July 2005, the Archbishop renewed the Commission Members and appointed two Franciscan Capuchin priests as official Exorcists:
- Fr John Vella OFM Cap
- Fr Franco Fenech OFM Cap
In 2014 Archbishop Paul Cremona appointed Fr Sandro Camilleri SDB, Fr David Borg OFM Conv. and Fr Stefan Attard as Auxiliary Exorcists.
In 2014 Fr Alex Refalo from Gozo was appointed an official Exorcist by Bishop Mario Grech.