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In Catholicism, does an exorcism need to be performed in a certain language, such as Latin? Or can it be performed in a language of the priest’s choice? Does it need to be one that the demon-possessed person understands?

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Do exorcisms need to be performed in a particular language?

The short answer is no.

It may be true that the Devil and his agents hate the use of Latin within the Roman Rite, but an exorcism may be performed in another [vernacular] language as well.

For example a Catholic priest of the Greek Rite is quite free to use the "Rituale" of their particular rite. This applies to all liturgical languages (such as Greek or Ukrainian) of all other rites which possess a "Rituale" according to their liturgical rite.

The language used in an exorcism does not need to be understood by the victim of possession to be efficacious. Generally speaking, very few possessed persons understand Latin.

Prior to Vatican Council II, all exorcisms in the Roman Rite were in Latin. This not so much true any more, although many exorcists still use the Rituale Romanum in Latin for exorcism. The Devil hates Latin.

The first official English-language translation of the ritual book “Exorcisms and Related Supplications” is available from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Distribution of “Exorcisms and Related Supplications” is limited to bishops, though exorcists, other clergy, scholars and seminary professors also can obtain a copy with the permission of a bishop.

Having it available now in English “should make it easier for a bishop to find a priest who can help him with this ministry,” said Fr. Andrew Menke, executive director of the USCCB’s Secretariat of Divine Worship.

“Given that there’s less facility in Latin than there used to be, even among priests, it opens the door to more priests to do this. Until now, not only did the priest have to be wise and holy, but he also had to have strong facility in Latin,” Fr. Menke told Catholic News Service.

“It makes it easier for a priest who might otherwise be a good exorcist but who would be intimidated by a requirement to use a Latin text. Having it available in the vernacular means he can concentrate on prayer and on the ritual, without needing to worry about working in another language,” he explained.

The translation is from the rite that was revised following the Second Vatican Council. It was promulgated in Latin in 1999 and then slightly amended in 2004. The revised text draws from rituals used by the Catholic Church for centuries.

The USCCB approved the English translation at its 2014 fall general assembly. The Vatican gave its “recognitio,” or approval, of the translation earlier this year. - US bishops publish English-language translation of exorcism ritual

The Church has now approved the 1999 Rituale Romanum in a number of other vernacular languages.

The traditional Rite of Exorcism can be said also in Slovenian and Croatian. The two vernacular translations of the Rituale Romanum were printed in 1932 (slo) and 1929 (cro). Benedict XV gave permission for the use of vernacular Rituale for all the dioceses of the then existing Kingdom of Yugoslavia. - Mohor Fortunat

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San Jose diocese's exorcist Fr. Gary Thomas* explained in a talk

that the Rite of Exorcism is only said in Latin. One reason is practical - there is no approved translation in English as yet. He gave another reason why he was so strongly in favor of the use of Latin in the Rite of Exorcism: “The Devil hates Latin, it is the universal language of the Church.”** I asked him about this afterwards, and he repeated it, saying that his personal experiences as an exorcist who has performed many, many exorcisms have convinced him of this. He told me he had heard from exorcists who did exorcisms in Italian, Spanish and Portuguese (the only approved vernaculars for this Rite) that Latin was the most effective language.

*upon whose story the 2011 film The Rite was based
**One reason "The Church uses the Latin language instead of the national language of its children" is "To avoid the danger of changing any part of its teaching in using different languages" (Baltimore Catechism #566).

See also Vice.com's article "Latin Is Still The Best Language for Fighting Satan"

  • Ken Graham’s answer appears to indicate that there is an approved English translation published in 2014, in contrast to this article. Is there some subtlety I’m not seeing? – Thunderforge May 21 '18 at 1:21
  • @Thunderforge Perhaps Fr. Thomas's talk was before then. – Geremia May 21 '18 at 1:29
  • The article The Devil Hates Latin, Says Exorcist in which Fr. Gary Thomas' quote is taken from was posted on Tuesday February 16, 2016. They should have verified their facts first. – Ken Graham May 21 '18 at 2:48

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