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News Briefs II

Catholic Church Revamps Exorcism For First Time in 385 Years

Los Angeles Times

The Roman Catholic Church, emphasizing its continued belief in the literal existence of the devil, has added some new twists in its age-old fight with Satan.

For the first time in 385 years, on Tuesday the Vatican issued new guidelines for performing exorcisms, a religious rite for driving evil out of the demon-possessed.

There are "no radical changes" in the new guidelines, although the fact that new rules were needed at all might strike some as odd. But while exorcisms may seem like something out of the Middle Ages or Hollywood they are still performed.

Pope John Paul II, who arrived Tuesday in St. Louis, once performed an exorcism himself, according to the memoirs of Cardinal Jacques Martin, the former prefect of the pontifical household.

In the last three years alone, Father James LeBar, chief exorcist in the New York archdiocese, and three other New York exorcists have investigated 80 cases throughout the country, LeBar said Tuesday.

"Evil is as present today as in any other age," LeBar said. But LeBar stressed that the church continues to believe that Satan is an actual spiritual being. "Evil is a force, yes," LeBar said. "But Satan is a creature of God, a (fallen) angel who sometimes possesses people when there is a real possession, then the ritual is used."

The new guidelines, so far available only in Latin, delete more "imaginative" descriptions of the devil in keeping with the church's understanding of the devil as "a spirit without body, without color and without odor."

But LeBar, who has examined the revisions, said they continue to give exorcists the discretion to use the old language as laid out in the Roman Rite of Exorcism of 1614.

"Sometimes in casting out some particularly stubborn devils," he said, "the older forms with the horrible-sounding names may be just what's needed to put the devil to flight."

Head of South African Election Commission Resigns

The Baltimore Sun

The head of the Independent Election Commission here resigned Tuesday, raising new doubts about the smooth execution of a national ballot already threatened by the specter of violence.

Johann Kriegler, a justice with the Constitution Court, cited "differences" with President Nelson Mandela's government over the role of the commission for his decision to step aside just months before this country conducts its second free elections since the apartheid-era.

"I thought I was part of the problem rather than part of the solution," he told viewers of the main evening news on South African Broadcasting Corporation Tuesday night.

Kriegler and opposition political parties claimed this would deprive thousands of South Africans, who still have the old identity cards, of the chance to take part in the election, which will open the post-Mandela era.

Kriegler's sudden resignation came 72 hours after the assassination of a political warlord in the volatile province of KwaZulu-Natal cast a pall of violence over the election season here.