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Vatican: Pope didn't perform exorcism
May 21st, 2013
02:55 PM ET

Vatican: Pope didn't perform exorcism

By Dan Merica, CNN
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(CNN) – A Vatican spokesman on Tuesday refuted claims that Pope Francis performed an exorcism on a man in St. Peter’s Square after Mass on Sunday. But he did not altogether deny the encounter.

“The Holy Father had no intention to perform any exorcism,” the Rev. Federico Lombardi said in a statement. “Instead, as he frequently does for the sick and suffering persons who approach him, he simply meant to pray for a suffering person who was presented to him.”

Speculation that Francis performed an exorcism began to ricochet around the Internet when video of the encounter from TV2000, a Catholic television station in Italy, was posted online.

In the video, Francis smiles and takes the hand of an unnamed man in a wheelchair. After a priest whispers in the pope's ear, his demeanor changes and he places his hands on the man’s head. The video shows the man in the wheelchair convulsing before his body goes limp with his mouth agape.

The pope also places his hands on two other people in wheelchairs, but neither has the same dramatic reaction.

Performing an exorcism is the act of “casting out” evil spirits from a person’s body. The power to perform exorcisms, wrote the Rev. Thomas Rosica in an e-mail to reporters, “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.”

“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 sacramentals such as holy water and the crucifix,” Rosica added.

Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, an American expert on exorcism who organized a conference on the topic in 2010, said what Francis did on Sunday was “clearly not an exorcism as most people understand it.”

“It is just too short,” Paprocki said. Most exorcisms, Paprocki said, take 20 to 30 minutes to complete and involve reciting prayers, reading scriptures and using sacramental objects such as crucifixes and holy water.

“I doubt the pope has it memorized,” the bishop said.

Paprocki’s 2010 conference on exorcism was seen as a peak of interest in the ancient practice - at least in the United States. According to experts, 100 bishops and priests attended the exorcism conference held in Baltimore.

“Since that conference, I think things have died down a little bit,” Paprocki said. “I think it kind of ebbs and flows and sometimes you get more of an interest in that than other times.”

Exorcism is not unique to Catholicism. Other Christian faiths, Hinduism and Islam all have forms of casting out evil spirits.

Jesus performs a number of exorcisms in the Bible, encounters that are recounted in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. One example: in Matthew 9:32-34, Jesus exorcises a mute shortly after healing two blind men.

“As they were going away, behold, a demon-oppressed man who was mute was brought to him,” reads the passage. “And when the demon had been cast out, the mute man spoke.”

The guidelines on Catholic exorcisms, “De Exorcismis et Supplicationibus Quibusdam,” or “Of Exorcisms and Certain Supplications,” are an 84-page document that was last revised in 1998.

Hollywood has also contributed to the public fascination with exorcism.

In 1973 “The Exorcist” captured America's imagination about demons taking over a person’s body and profoundly shaped the public's perceptions about the process of throwing those devils out. The movie was violent, vivid and for many people unforgettable.

More recently, in 2010, a movie titled “The Rite,” starring Anthony Hopkins, dramatized the life and training of the Rev. Gary Thomas, a California priest, as an exorcist in Rome.

To experts on exorcism, however, these movies are just a sensational look at a traditional Catholic practice.

“These portrayals in these movies tend towards sensationalism,” said Rev. Mark Morozowich, dean of theology and religious studies at the Catholic University of America. “It creates a hysteria among some people and it creates fantasies among other people. I think this has caused undue fascination with these things.”

Morozowich said in some cases exorcisms are legitimately necessary and solemn tasks taken on by a priest.

“While possessions do exist, they are meant to be something more private,” Morozowich said. “Sometimes it trivializes that experience by fantasizing it.”

- CNN’s Tom Foreman and Daniel Burke contributed to this report.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Belief • Catholic Church • Pope • Pope Francis

soundoff (442 Responses)
  1. STFU

    Mohammad A.Dar, could you please posts Mohammad's pictures too!! oh my favorite was one with turban bomb.

    May 21, 2013 at 9:51 pm |
  2. BobMD

    This is why religion is dying.

    May 21, 2013 at 9:42 pm |
    • STFU

      so do arts, monuments, sculptures, great architecture, gold-diamonds-precious stone jewellery.

      May 21, 2013 at 9:56 pm |
  3. Brampt

    After burning people in fire or beheaded....now exorcism???

    May 21, 2013 at 9:17 pm |
  4. Gavin Ford

    An exorcism? Remind me what century this is? Even if one wasn't done it's ridiculous that anyone can take this seriously.

    May 21, 2013 at 9:11 pm |
  5. Tabano

    Catholic church was the first one founded by Peter. All other "Christian denominations" Bautists, Prebysterians, Jehova Witness, Mormons, etc were created after as disident from Catholicism. The catholic church has made mistakes, no questions about it; but its influence and good deeds supersede by the mile those misdeeds. Catholicism is the trunk of christianism, protestantism are the branches of the tree. And for Atheists, good luck with Lenin, Max, and Engels. LOL

    May 21, 2013 at 9:07 pm |
    • Gavin Ford

      I'll take those three and you can keep Hitler.

      May 21, 2013 at 9:12 pm |
    • Are You Serious/

      The Catholic Church is the outgrow of the Roman Empire. It singly invented Christianity and the Bible in about 300 AD including Jesus the man and the name. That was done to consolidate power and control over the people. Nothing is a fake as the Catholic religion and all its other offshoots.

      May 21, 2013 at 9:17 pm |
    • AtheistsMorons

      Nicely said Tabano.

      May 21, 2013 at 9:18 pm |
    • AtheistsMorons

      @Areyouserious

      As a matter of fact there is something more fake than Catholic Religion, it is Atheism, this one is more fake than anything else.

      May 21, 2013 at 9:19 pm |
    • JBullets

      As a confirmed Catholic I would plead with you to wake up and observe reality. The entire faith, like all others, is corrupt and ludicrous.

      May 21, 2013 at 9:39 pm |
    • TheNation

      Byzantine marked the first world power led by Christians (Technically still Rome in the beginning). They were not nice to pagans, just like the pagans were not nice to them. Islam the youngest of the major religions is still growing and, if history repeats itself, will be conquering and destroying vast libraries of knowledge. It is awesome being a human, the ability to think creatively with the means of making those dreams realities. I wonder what the next major religion will be. I pray to the blessed mother of mathematics that it is Science. (Culture is a branch of science by the way. Scientists aren't a bunch of misguided, morally corrupt people without "religion". Anthropology, Sociology, Ethnography etc...)

      May 21, 2013 at 9:41 pm |
    • Imagine No Religion

      @Tabano

      Ummm, you forgot a branch on your xian tree. Islam.

      Yep, that's right. Islam is just another offshoot of the catholic xianity trunk, believing that jesus was a mere prophet instead the human incarnate of god.

      Hitler was a catholic, bin Laden was an islamist. Seems that the nut didn't fall far from the tree, did it?

      Religion is delusion, regardless of the flavor.

      -–
      "There ain't no Jesus gonna come from the sky.
      Now that I found out, I know I can cry." - John Lennon

      May 21, 2013 at 9:42 pm |
    • jim

      all of those religions were founded by people guided by the spirit because of the lies and pagan teachings the catholics attached to Jesus' teachings. Peter had nothing to do with catholic.lies. Why priests do not marry? Peter was married and they can not even get that right. also see Matt.7: 21-23 and apply it to yourselves. you may want to humble yourselves and then you can start to see what those other men saw. (Rev.18: 4,5) and go back and read ch.17 and 18 and see what they saw "Get out of her my people" before it is too late for she has been judged.

      May 22, 2013 at 12:41 am |
  6. Mick

    “Sometimes it trivializes that experience by fantasizing it.”
    Um...You DO realize that exorcising demons is pure, unadulterated fantasy, don't you? Shame on anyone living in the present day who hasn't caught on to this yet.

    May 21, 2013 at 8:30 pm |
    • HeroesAre Rare

      If you've experience evil shut up.
      I get SO sick of Americans who are experts at everything from Military strategy, medical treatment, Economy, Law.............all from the comfort of their trailers while stuffing chips and sausage bought with their food stamps.

      Physics proves that everything has an opposite: ,Magnetic poles, light and dark, activity and inertia, life and death, hot and cold, good and evil. You flunk Physics as well as everything else?

      May 21, 2013 at 8:42 pm |
    • HeroesAre Rare

      That should read if you HAVEN'T experienced evil.

      May 21, 2013 at 8:43 pm |
    • Loggan44

      I suppose having a firm belief in how something works or doesn't work is wonderful for you. I am a person of science but I have religious faith as well. I believe there are a lot of things left unexplained or beyond Man's knowledge in this universe. So, I respect your opinion but I happen to think it is narrow minded. If your beliefs help you sleep at night that is great.

      May 21, 2013 at 9:05 pm |
    • Dfiant

      "Physics proves that everything has an opposite: ,Magnetic poles, light and dark, activity and inertia, life and death, hot and cold, good and evil. You flunk Physics as well as everything else?"

      Assuming something are we? That Physics applies in this case? And even if it does, your also assuming the "evil spirit" is the opposite to what exactly? Good spirits? Angels? Souls? That even "IF" they exist, that they can somehow possess someone?

      Assume much?

      May 21, 2013 at 9:12 pm |
    • Mc

      " You flunk Physics as well as everything else?"

      Having gone to grad school in physics, I can say with some assurance that you're an idiot.

      May 21, 2013 at 9:17 pm |
  7. MrsFizzy

    Wait, what century is this again??

    May 21, 2013 at 7:57 pm |
  8. Does Anyone Know?

    what kind of exorcism one-eyed Mohammad performed on male goats in mountains of Mecca?

    May 21, 2013 at 7:45 pm |
    • AtheistsMorons

      It wasn't on a male goat. Actually it was on an atheist, the only thing he did is he gave the atheist two midol and changed his diaper and put him to bed.

      May 21, 2013 at 8:53 pm |
  9. Science

    #https://www.facebook.com/RichardDawkinsFoundation/posts/10151583537145155

    From google.

    May 21, 2013 at 7:42 pm |
  10. YBP

    I'd just like to remind everyone that it is currently the year 2013 CE. Not 1013 AD.

    May 21, 2013 at 7:38 pm |
    • Evil Church

      You want to see what the Catholic Church is like? Watch "Borgia" on Netflix. Not only did these people invent a religion including Jesus of the Bible. They are a total farce.

      May 21, 2013 at 7:43 pm |
  11. edgar lores

    The Pope should perform exorcism on clergymen possessed by the demons of lust, pride and greed.

    May 21, 2013 at 7:36 pm |
  12. NO PICTURES PLEASE

    Please respect her privacy, and turn off your cameras, iphones, Madam Mohammad is taking bath.
    http://youtu.be/NzrX9R5kfGo

    May 21, 2013 at 7:35 pm |
  13. AtheistsMorons

    Oh damn, here we go again. I'm sure the place will be full of those atheists morons about this topic.

    May 21, 2013 at 7:33 pm |
    • Trevor

      You have an imaginary friend and I'm the idiot?

      May 21, 2013 at 7:39 pm |
    • YBP

      Morons? We know a lot more about your religion than you do. That's why we don't believe in it.

      May 21, 2013 at 7:40 pm |
    • MrsFizzy

      Like people who say the man was probably having a seizure rather than actually having a demon cast out of him?? Right, how moronic would THAT be?!

      May 21, 2013 at 7:56 pm |
    • AtheistsMorons

      Sure you do idiots. You think you know religion, as a matter of fact you know nothing because you're so self centered and narrowed mind that even if you have proofs in front of you, you wouldn't see it anyway. You're nothing else than a bunch of parasites.

      May 21, 2013 at 8:03 pm |
    • Brian

      I'm not an atheist, but an agnostic who believes in God but not the man-made religious claiming to worship God. I would love to see this proof you speak of...

      May 21, 2013 at 8:20 pm |
    • AtheistsMorons

      @Brian

      Don't play the fool card with me, you know to damn well that you are an atheist. I'm not going to fall for it. Even if you had the proof right under your nose you wouldn't see it anyway.

      May 21, 2013 at 8:29 pm |
    • Simon Cyrene

      no, seriously... proof? is there a link or something you'd share?

      May 21, 2013 at 9:26 pm |
    • AtheistsMorons

      Sure there is proof out there, you only need to go on AnswersForDummies Dot Com.

      May 21, 2013 at 9:30 pm |
    • TheNation

      God help me if any man made religion turns out to be true. I don't even think Jodi Arias could conceptualize a better hell for so many humans throughout the world and in America.

      Now if it turns out religion is false and their is no sentient God... Well then i understand and the world isn't just a torture chamber for the divine.

      May 21, 2013 at 10:39 pm |
  14. Mark

    " Most exorcisms, Paprocki said, take 20 to 30 minutes to complete and involve reciting prayers, reading scriptures and using sacramental objects such as crucifixes and holy water."

    That's funny! "reciting prayers" and using "sacramental objects" are both condemned in the bible. Along with religious officials who "enlarge the fringes" on their garments in order to appear important and the the notion that any earthly man should be referred to as "father". If there was a religion that actively tried to embody the exact opposite of what Jesus taught then this is it!

    IF anyone wants scriptural references then by all means ask. I can't be bothered at the moment.

    May 21, 2013 at 7:30 pm |
  15. jvance

    Honest to God, someone actually tried to cast the devil out of me one time. Either I hade a strong demon or she was an inept exorcist because nothing happened.
    In any case, this stuff is fascinating.

    May 21, 2013 at 7:26 pm |
  16. Patines

    What century is it anyway?

    May 21, 2013 at 7:24 pm |
  17. Bill Berdixman

    How can we get the Pope to Washington and get an exorcism for Obama? Course....even if he was possessed.... it wouldnt be his fault....just like everything else.

    May 21, 2013 at 6:59 pm |
    • emmetd

      This could be an article about puppies and yet one can count on some kind of "gee-I'm-funny-when-I-slam-Obama" comment.

      May 21, 2013 at 7:24 pm |
    • bill.x

      @Bill Berdixman May the devil grab you into hell – sideways

      May 21, 2013 at 7:32 pm |
    • Bill Berdixman

      Who is slamming oblama? Give me 5 examples of where obuckna actually took ownership of his failures? You cant can you!!?!?! And what a terrible thing to wish upon me-spending eternity with a bunch of democrooks...no thanks....bad enough I had to support them throughout my lifetime.

      May 21, 2013 at 7:58 pm |
    • Loggan44

      Why are you such an Obama hater? Is it the rumors and hoaxes perpetrated by the GOP and the mindless sheep that follow them? President Obama hasn't accomplished everything I hoped he would but he didn't start a war base on lies. He didn't take us from a fiscal surplus to a fiscal deficit. That was Mr. Bush who should be tried as a War criminal. I am surprised that conservatives weren't outraged by Mr. Bush's actions. Its okay to attack other countries based on lies and kill their people plus remove the safeguard that was keeping Iran busy and yet you don't want women to have a say as to what happens with their own bodies? Astonishing.

      May 21, 2013 at 9:12 pm |
    • bill Berdixman

      Who Hates Oblamala? Not me... I hate what he has and is doing to America...but I dont hate him. And being the good lemming you are you follow right along step by step with the democrooked playbook of lies and bs! You are such a lemming!!!!! Obluckna took us from a debt into a debt that will affect our childrens children....supporting stupid democrooked causes. And he has WAY exceeded Bushs debt! Now as for the wars,,....you may want to go back and take a peek at how many democrooked lawmakers AGREED with teh intelligence that led us into war! You should be tried as a lemming dope and FORCED TO REPAY EVERY DIME I SPENT ON YOUR EDUCATION! Now go away Lemming.... follow the rest of your pukes off the cliff

      May 22, 2013 at 5:35 am |
  18. EX catholic

    He is the one that needs an exorcism. Idolatry is NOT a religion IDOLATRY IS A SIN a Very, Very, Very Serious SIN.
    Idolatry is the same as the worship of demons, so said the apostle Paul. IDOLATRY IS DEMONIC.

    May 21, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
    • Science

      Bob ...........#Comedy Golld..............below

      I don't think Christians should be hated more than any other religious group. I think all religious groups deserve the same amount of disdain and rejection. They all equally poison the minds of the public.

      May 21, 2013 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse | Reply

      Science

      Same with a funky phone call(s)..............

      Science books........videos.............trumps the 666.................beast.................or red horn-y thingy....does it

      NOT ........peachy ?

      May 21, 2013 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/05/19/proofs-of-heaven-popular-but-not-with-the-church/comment-page-48/#comments

      May 21, 2013 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |)

      May 21, 2013 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |

      Science

      Bob.................#................below ?..

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/05/21/who-hears-prayersforoklahoma/comment-page-2/#comment-2356638

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/05/05/when-christians-become-a-hated-minority/?replytocom=2356570#respond

      May 21, 2013 at 6:28 pm | Report abuse |

      #Comedy Gold......http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/05/21/vatican-pope-didnt-perform-exorcism/comment-page-1/#comments

      May 21, 2013 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/05/05/when-christians-become-a-hated-minority/

      peace

      May 21, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      Otherwise it is known as hindu secular ism, idiotic, atheism, self center ism.

      May 21, 2013 at 7:14 pm |
  19. AL

    WHAT A FOOL!!! THIS IS NOT AN EXORCISM..IF YOU WANT TO KNOW ABOUT IT ,RENT A MOVIE ,,"""""""""""""""" "THE EXORCIST"" THEN YOU WILL SEE WHAT IS ABOUT,...IF YOU BELIEVE ABOUT IT,,,,I DO NOT...DR ALBERTO

    May 21, 2013 at 6:55 pm |
  20. Woody

    Headline: "Pope didn't perform exorcism"

    No problem. Nobody else ever did either. It's all male bovine excrement.

    May 21, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.