The Vatican is refuting reports that Pope Francis performed an exorcism on Pentecost Sunday. Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, Director of the Holy See Press Office spoke to Vatican Radio, Tuesday, May 21, clearing up any misconceptions about a purported exorcism.
On Pentecost Sunday, Pope Francis laid his hands upon the head of a sick child and prayed. This simple act of prayer sparked rumors that the Pontiff performed an exorcism. However, Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, Director of the Holy See Press Office not only repudiated the fact that Pope Francis conducted an exorcism this past Sunday, but went on to detail this mystical ritual.
The Holy Father did not intend to perform any exorcism. Rather, as he frequently does with the sick and the suffering who come his way, he intended simply to pray for a suffering person who had been brought before him.
Exorcism is, in the strict sense, the casting out of evil spirits. The power to exorcise was conferred by Jesus on the apostles, and it is understood that this power passes to the bishops who are the successors to the apostles, and priests the co-workers. That said, the Church has had, for many hundreds of years, it ought to be added, a very precise ritual of exorcism: there are no evangelical-style tent revival theatrics, but careful, even methodical attention and faithful following of the prescribed prayers, gestures and use of sacramental such as holy water and the crucifix.
In an exorcism question and answer segment that followed on the Vatican News source, Fr. Bernd Hagenkord, SJ, head of Vatican Radio’s German division, explained the ritual further to Chris Altieri, declaring it is not a sacrament while describing who can perform exorcisms.
Though every priest can perform exorcisms, in fact, there is an exorcism that is part of the Rite of Baptism, so priests perform exorcisms on a fairly regular basis, Church law requires that every diocese have at least one specially trained exorcist, who knows how to distinguish the signs of demonic possession from those of mental or physical illness. In fact, even today, when some voices claim that demonic possession is on the rise, exorcism remains very, very rare. The vast majority of cases investigated turn out to be cases of mental illness.
Pope Francis’ act on Pentecost Sunday was simply a blessing, an act of healing dating back to the Old Testament, not an exorcism as has been rumored.
Source: Vatican News
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