Did Pope Francis, the latest to ascend to the Catholic throne, perform an exorcist on a wheelchair-bound young man this past Sunday? According to those who know what the ritual entails–beyond the movies, anyway–it appears as if the prayer the Pope performed over the man was done for exorcism purposes. There is video of the incident in question:
As indicated, those who have seen the video say yes, it was an exorcism prayer:
“Exorcists who have seen the footage have no doubt – this was a prayer for liberation from Evil, an actual exorcism,” said TV2000, which is owned by the Italian Bishops Conference. The station gathered a panel of clergy specialising in exorcisms who scrutinised the footage and concluded that the pope had performed an exorcism. (link added)
However, the Vatican is taking another point of view concerning Pope Francis and his healing hands:
“The Holy Father did not intend to carry out any exorcism,” said Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman. “Instead, as he often does for sick and suffering people, he simply intended to pray for a person who was presented to him.”
These words, however, did not go unanswered, at least by Father Gabriele Amorth, who, according to reports, is the head of the International Association of Exorcists. Father Amorth says, “It was a real exorcism. If the Vatican has denied this, it shows that they understand nothing.” Of course, it could also be the case that the Vatican is just having fun with semantics and not stoking the fires of exorcism. The Vatican’s explanation was purposely vague, reducing the action to a simple prayer. If, however, you read the Catholic Encyclopedia’s definition of the word “exorcism,” it’s easy to see how vague semantics will let avoid the “exorcism” word without lying about what Pope Francis did (or did not do):
Exorcism is (1) the act of driving out, or warding off, demons, or evil spirits, from persons, places, or things, which are believed to be possessed or infested by them, or are liable to become victims or instruments of their malice; (2) the means employed for this purpose, especially the solemn and authoritative adjuration of the demon, in the name of God, or any of the higher power in which he is subject.
With that in mind, it would be very easy to replace the terms “demon” and “evil spirits” with vague terms like “sick and suffering people” and while there’s obfuscation, no outright lie has been told. So, did Pope Francis actually perform a quick-and-easy exorcism, or was he just praying for the sick young man?