The exorcising Pope

The big question in certain Italian media circles yesterday, a question that also made some headlines as far as the Netherlands, was: did Pope Francis perform an exorcism on Sunday?

r-POPE-FRANCIS-EXORCISM-large570Footage shows the Holy Father conversing with a young man in a wheelchair and the priest accompanying him, before placing his hands on the boy’s head and praying for a short while. While the footage is blurred to protect the boy’s identity, we can see him reacting, his mouth open, as the pope prays. It’s a short encounter, but one in which certain people have read much. They point out that the Pope, upon hearing the aforementioned priest seemingly describing what ails the boy, looks suddenly very concerned and immediately places his hands on the boy’s head. The look, the intensity of the prayer and the boy’s reaction, they say, indicate that an exorcism was performed.

But there are some serious questions to be asked about this reading of events. In the first place, Vatican sources have denied that what occurred was anything but prayer and blessing – in itself powerful and moving enough. Furthermore, as Father Anton ten Klooster has pointed out, an exorcism will most likely never take place on such short notice, in such a public location and by a priest (in this case, the Pope), who is unprepared to do it.

An example of wishful thinking fueled by enthusiasm, it would seem. But it does point towards something interesting: exorcisms are a reality. They do take place, although probably not in the same way certain movies would have us believe. Pope Francis has referred several times to the devil, in very clear terms. It is an uncomfortable thing to believe, but as Catholics we are asked to do so. The devil is a reality, and so are possessions.

So, can the Pope exorcise demons? With the right preparation, certainly. Did he so in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday? Definitely not.


4 thoughts on “The exorcising Pope”

  1. A small remark, you should ask the originator of this claim yesterday; the (claimed) vadre retro expert on exorcisms or panel before passing “definite” judgement on the Italian discussion what he meant, perhaps he’s just misunderstood. Of course a formal ritual exorcism cannot be performed in such a short timeframe or as you argue is unprepared and on short notice on the spot.
    If this panel or this exorcist meant “an evil spirit” (whatever that may be) probably left the boy after prayer instead of the official exorcism procedure, than that could be the case. If the response after the short prayer is consistent with the experience, then it could be ‘more or less’ true.
    Perhaps this videosegment provided an opportunity for attracting attention for the next show on friday on Pope Francis and his handling of satan (as they had previous shows on this topic).

  2. I’m uncertain why people claim that it couldn’t have been excorism because it happened on such short notice. Jesus never seemed to take a long time before excorcising…

    1. There’s a passage in all three of the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) where the Apostles are unable to exorcise a demon that causes a boy yo convulse and foam at the mouth (Mt. 17:14-20; Mk. 9:14-29; Luke 9:37-43). After exorcising the demon, Jesus rebukes the disciples for their lack of Faith, and answers their question about why they couldn’t drive out the demon: “This kind can only come out through prayer” (Mk. 9:29). This forms the reason behind the Church’s insistence that exorcisms be planned out in advance, after a period of prayer, fasting, and preparation. To perform such an exorcism on such short notice isn’t just unusual, its dangerous! Spiritually and physically.

      If there is audio with the video, perhaps someone can translate what the father and the pope say to each other. That might clear up matters.

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