Italian press, and media worldwide, are speculating that Pope Francis I performed an exorcism on a young man in a wheelchair at the Pentecostal Mass last Sunday.
The Argentine Pope has made it clear that he believes in the Devil, who he refers to as “the Enemy” and “The Prince of this World,” who he says is a force that needs to be fought.
The Italian newspaper, La Repubblica, quotes an exorcism expert who said, “It was a prayer of liberation from evil or even a real exorcism.”
However the Vatican has downplayed the incident, which was broadcast by religious satellite channel TV2000. They said the Pope was simply blessing the infirm child.
The Vatican has said the Pope “didn't intend to perform any exorcism. But as he often does for the sick or suffering, he simply intended to pray for someone who was suffering who was presented to him.”
The footage of the incident was taken after Pentecostal Mass, in St. Peter’s Square, in the Vatican. The man’s face was pixelated to insure his anonymity.
The Pope can be seen gripping the man’s head and pushing down. All the while he’s reciting an intense prayer. The Italian press reported that the man’s mouth drops open and he exhales sharply.
Once the short exchange is ended the Pope smiles and continues his Sunday greetings for the sick and disabled.
According to the Associated Press, the television station of the Italian bishops' conference, TV2000, reported on Monday exorcist experts agreed there was “no doubt” that the Pope had performed an exorcism.
Reverend Giulio Maspero, a Rome-based systematic theologian, said he was almost certain that Pope Francis had performed an exorcism. He said his actions were either a full-fledged exorcism or a prayer to “liberate” the man from demonic possession. He noted that the position of the Pope’s hands was “typical” for an exorcism.
He added, “When you witness something like that — for me it was shocking — I could feel the power of prayer.”
It seems that gone is the image of an exorcism conjured by the 1973 cult classic “The Exorcist.”
Italian newspapers noted that Pope Benedict XVI did not perform an exorcism during his tenure. However, Pope John Paul II did, in 1982, in almost exactly the same spot where Pope Francis laid his hands on the man on Sunday.
Judge for yourself, here’s the clip of Pope Francis I laying his hands on the man: