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

Vatican: Pope didn't perform exorcism

By Dan Merica, CNN
[twitter-follow screen_name='DanMericaCNN']

(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. tax man

    Ever notice the prime real estate the vatican owns in the USA?

    Make the leaches pay taxes.

    May 22, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
    • Joe

      Then the heroic gays and atheists will all pitch in and make up for the vast social work the church accomplishes? Talk about leaches (and cry-babies).

      May 22, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
  2. who

    The pope dresses like a cult leader,, or just a bad cross dressser

    May 22, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • derp

      Abe Vigoda in drag.

      May 22, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
  3. Peace

    has the pope admitted he's gay yet?

    A young life of springing with priests. That is unless he'e a pedo. We all know it's one or the other

    May 22, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
    • Marc

      And you call yourself "Peace" with comments like that. Disgusting.

      May 22, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
    • richunix


      That would be a ball-buster if he was! I wonder if he breaks out in a cold-sweat when the Choir boys walk by... Sorry, couldn't resist..

      May 22, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
    • be honest

      the pope your partner, marc

      May 22, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
  4. Peace

    the [pope claims he speaks for jesus..

    Odd, since we all know he speaks for pedos

    May 22, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
  5. seaann

    Those gifts in men were taken away,1 Corinthians 13:8-10. those prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus. The politic that you see with the church is an indication that they are in bed with them as the bible said. Revelation 18:9

    These people do not represent the True God or His government. Jesus is ruling now and is King of GOD'S Kingdom. Matthew 6:9,10
    Keep seeking for the truth mention at John 8:32 Pray out to a sincere heart and the Creator will answer your prayer. Psalms 65:2. You are wasting your time on this. They are done. ( 1 John 5:19 ) is clear who they represent.

    May 22, 2013 at 11:38 am |
  6. kothel

    I understand why religious people are in message boards about articles. As they see it, when they die they are going somewhere. But those of you who are atheists and spend all your time on messages of articles about religion...why are you wasting your ONLY life? If other people's beliefs are irrational, you are probably not going to change them, especially by being condescending to them in a message board post. For God or Science's sake, go live. Living is not sitting around all day telling people they are stupid, especially when you do it through the internet. Although I guess I'm one to talk. I know nobody in here is going to listen to that. That's my last post for a good long while. Now to go work out so I live longer and enjoy the rest of my day off.

    May 22, 2013 at 11:29 am |
    • LinCA


      You said, "If other people's beliefs are irrational, you are probably not going to change them, especially by being condescending to them in a message board post."
      Granted, most delusional believers that come here and show off their ignorance for the world to see, aren't very likely to be swayed by a rational argument. If you could argue with believers, there wouldn't be any. But there are (probably) far more people reading these comments than commenters. To those that are on the fence, showing the boundless ignorance at the root of religion, may swing some to the side of reason.

      You said, "For God or Science's sake, go live."
      As soon as delusional thinking is removed from influencing public policy, we finally may.

      You said, "Living is not sitting around all day telling people they are stupid, especially when you do it through the internet."
      Not entirely, but it sure is an entertaining part of it.

      May 22, 2013 at 11:35 am |
    • TDJ

      I agree! If there were no God, there would be no atheists. As far as I am concerned they can engage their mental, self-erotic sessions elsewhere.

      May 22, 2013 at 11:39 am |
    • Cameron


      Well said!

      I think yours is one of my favorite posts, ever.

      May 22, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
    • derp

      Maybe we come here because it is fun riling up you delusional sky wizard worshippers.

      It gives us a good laugh during our day.

      You wing nuts want to believe in iron age fairy tales, sasquatch, santa claus and unicorns, that's fine.

      Just don't be surprised when we find it amusing making light of you.

      May 22, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
  7. Terrible_Ted

    I choose to believe in God. I don't find fault in those who choose to deny God. We all find out in the end.

    May 22, 2013 at 11:25 am |
    • LinCA


      You said, "We all find out in the end."
      Say "Hi" to Thor for me, when you meet him.

      May 22, 2013 at 11:27 am |
    • Peace

      not possible to find anything at the end,, consciousness is gone.

      May 22, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
    • sam stone

      or, we just die and find out nothing

      May 22, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
  8. seaann

    DemonHunter, Yes! the demons do exist, You cannot see them they are wicked angels that use to be in heaven. They were kicked out when Jesus stood up and started to rule.

    They cannot go back to heaven as they had access before as with all the mess Satan did to Job. Job Chapters 1&2.

    (Read it) Revelation 12:7 Satan lost that war and was kicked out. Vs 9-12 is clear he is angry. It is not joke. The demons and the Devil is responsible for the mess we see daily . (1 John 5:19) The world of mankind is under his control.
    Daniel 2:44 God's government under the ruler ship of Jesus is going to clear the earth very soon.

    May 22, 2013 at 11:24 am |
    • derp

      "DemonHunter, Yes! the demons do exist, You cannot see them they are wicked angels that use to be in heaven. They were kicked out when Jesus stood up and started to rule"

      Holy sh1t!!!

      You actually believe that?

      Wow, you biblenutters are a crazier lot than I thought.

      I guess you believe in alien visitation, leprechauns and tinkerbell too.

      May 22, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
  9. palintwit

    "Everyone relax, Sarah Palin has proven there’s no such thing as climate change

    Pack up your temperature sensors, your climate-modeling supercomputers, your tree and ice core sample equipment. Sarah Palin has spoken on climate change, and she says it’s snowing in Alaska, ergo “global warming my gluteus maximus.” And you know it’s science because she used the Latin word for “ass.”

    Palin only backs winning horses like John McCain, Bristol and Levi’s marriage, and her own gubernatorial career, so if she says climate science is a non-starter then by god, we’re just going to throw in the towel."

    ( Once again Sarah Palin proves she's still driving the clown car ).

    May 22, 2013 at 11:11 am |
    • dave

      You sound the a bigger TWIT yourself. She can say what she wants about the myth that is Global Warming since we have to listen to that idiot Al Gore about global warming. what a hoax.

      May 22, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
    • derp

      "the myth that is Global Warming since we have to listen to that idiot Al Gore about global warming. what a hoax"

      You might want to go to the NOAA website and do a cursory check on global climate temperature data before calling it a myth.

      Not that you christards believe data, but you might look a lot less stupid than you do right now.

      May 22, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
  10. sly

    "Exorcism"? Ho ho ho ho ho ... was Linda Blair there?

    I really don't understand why religious people don't just call Superman to fight evil – He is much more accessible, very efficient, and unless you have Kryptonite, He is unbeatable.

    I just don't understand.

    May 22, 2013 at 10:59 am |
    • derp

      You must have forgot about the large deposits of krytonite in hell. Satan is waste deep in the stuff. Superman would be effed, but jeebus is immune to kryptonite.

      May 22, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
    • billcody

      "I just don't understand."

      You didn't need to post more than this. It is obvious you don't understand nor will you ever understand until you open your mind and shut your mouth.

      May 22, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
    • sly

      "... open your mind and shut your mouth ..."

      Ho ho ho .... then I'd be like all the religious people – afraid to utter a word about anything.

      Sorry you don't believe in Superman. That shows how extremely naive you are about how this earth was formed. EVERYONE knows the story of Superman – written thousands of years ago by Marvel comics.

      Go ahead – choose to bury your head in the sand about Superman – you will see Him in the end, red cape and all.

      May 22, 2013 at 2:30 pm |
  11. tony

    Whose image is Dick Cheney made in?

    May 22, 2013 at 10:20 am |
    • Bill Richardson

      That would be, "in whose image is Dick Cheney made?" You can always spot a liberal...cannot speak properly to save their lives!!

      May 22, 2013 at 10:47 am |
    • Peace

      who said anyone in made from the image of.. other than what yields from evolution

      May 22, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
    • derp

      That would be, "in whose image is Dick Cheney made?" You can always spot a liberal...cannot speak properly to save their lives!!"

      You can always spot a christard, they don't understand the difference between typing and speaking.

      May 22, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
  12. Dicky30

    People are spiritually dry because them church is in denial of the supernatural. Even Justin Bieber is more funky.

    May 22, 2013 at 10:18 am |
  13. James Pfeiffer

    Nothing...and I mean nothing provokes more irrational, subjective and delusional hysteria than religion. Because we are a species that has the uncanny ability to actually contemplate our own deaths, we have, for thousands and thousands of years, spent lots of time creating "stories" that serve nothing more than to placate our fear of dying. So let's create a heaven and hell. As they say, the bible is the greatest "story" ever told...even better than Grimm's fairy tales!

    May 22, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • TheThinker

      Hmm, Religion causes irrational hysteria... your post shows you are an expert on both. 🙂

      EN VIVAT JESUS!!!!

      May 22, 2013 at 10:30 am |
    • LinCA


      You said, "Hmm, Religion causes irrational hysteria... your post shows you are an expert on both."
      It actually seems to both cause, and have been caused by, irrational hysteria. It's a self perpetuating condition.

      May 22, 2013 at 10:37 am |
    • Maime

      TheThinker isn't much of himself.

      May 22, 2013 at 10:37 am |
  14. batteryinme

    Send me money, send me green
    Heaven you will meet
    Make a contribution
    And you'll get a better seat
    Bow to leper messiah

    Marvel at his tricks, need your Sunday fix
    Blind devotion came, rotting your brain
    Chain, chain
    Join the endless chain, taken by his glamour
    Fame, fame
    Infection is the game, stinking drunk with power

    May 22, 2013 at 9:56 am |
  15. Bible Clown©

    If it made the poor fellow feel better, what was the harm? "Here, I'll use my imaginary magic powers to cast out your imaginary demons. Gosh, look at those demons leaving your body! All better now, k-thx b'bye!" He'll probably be back with a new "demon" next month and want to do it again.

    May 22, 2013 at 9:52 am |
  16. Phil

    Sooooo...the question is whether he did something fake or just looked like he did something fake?

    May 22, 2013 at 9:29 am |
  17. Katie

    Exorcism.. What a joke.. That implies that there's a god and a devil, neither of which exist... If he did, it would only be a publicity stunt and a sad one at that. I don't think the vatican is hurting for business...

    May 22, 2013 at 9:24 am |
    • Lawless4U

      "......that there's a god and a devil, neither of which exist".

      Says you.

      May 22, 2013 at 9:51 am |
    • Laurette

      Believe as you will, as is your right, but there are people like mes who believe in God and the unfortunate existence of the evil one. And as a believer I see this as the Pontif seeing someone who needed his help and prayer and so he did what comes naturally to him. The politics of the Vatican mean nothing to me, as a matter of fact I wish the politics would go away and leave us with pure faith. If you saw a man hurt and you could help him by call 911 or by rendering aid yourself, wouldn't you do that?

      May 22, 2013 at 9:54 am |
    • DemonHunter

      Demons most definitely do exist. I've seen one and I know Jesus believed in Demons and the Devil. The devil is this really pale person with sharp teeth. Demons are mostly red and have these huge horns and one big arm. I've seen one, though, I understand you might not believe me. Not everyone has the special vision to see them.

      May 22, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • seaann

      Sorry to say. You are not informed. They both exist. The earth was created (Genesis 1:1)and we see that, the order of our planet, we see that, the mess man has made we see that. The evil that exist we see that. So what are you talking about?

      It is clear that you are not informed and have no idea of what you are speaking of. Satan the devil is real and the ruler of the world we see.
      1 John 5:19 the entire world is under his influence.

      Jesus is real and now ruling in the heavens (His government Matthew 6: 9,10) is very soon going to clean up this mess. Daniel 2:44
      Yes! God's government is real and so is the devil.

      May 22, 2013 at 11:13 am |
    • derp

      "If you saw a man hurt and you could help him by call 911 or by rendering aid yourself, wouldn't you do that?"

      Seeing how I am not Qualified to perform first aid, I'd call 911.

      May 22, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
  18. JMEF

    The RCC posted some financial results for 2011 and despite all the ugliness still turned a profit, cash flow means more than jesus christ. When will believers realize they are supporting tens of thousands of hustlers for god, the world's greatest scam. The only way to stop this blight on humanity is to stop donating, the sooner the better.

    May 22, 2013 at 9:19 am |
    • Bible Clown©

      " they are supporting tens of thousands of hustlers for god" Yeah, but also they are paying to have graveyards mowed and for lunch for sick old ladies. Not everything churches do is part of their plan to enslave the world; sometimes they are just having a fish fry.

      May 22, 2013 at 9:54 am |
    • tony

      When you see some bishop mowing some old lady's lawn, take a picture and post it.

      May 22, 2013 at 10:18 am |
    • JMEF

      Good point Tony. Would not surprise me if they paid less than minimum wage to an illegal alien to get the grass cut, all about cash flow.

      May 22, 2013 at 10:23 am |
    • Casey

      The RCC has also paid millions for the protection of pedophiles. Their activities align them more closely with Satan than Jesus.

      May 22, 2013 at 11:43 am |
    • Science


      When religious beliefs become evil: 4 signs « – CathNews NZ

      About 50,100,000 results (0.20 seconds) ............from google............quick review of article.............Ethics + $$$$$$$$

      RCC = $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$..............no red horn-y thingy needed...........but big part of the RCC.............

      The FVCKING bedVROOM.


      May 22, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
    • Reality

      FEAR, SHAME and GUILT and COVER IT ALL UP, a standard response across the board with the "walking with god clerics" now forever walking with the common man–

      Obviously ordination in any religion is not assurance of good behavior !!!!!

      Neither is coronation!!! e.g. Henry VIII, King David.

      Neither is marriage as 50% of those men convicted of pedophilia are married.

      Neither is being elected president of the USA!! e.g. Billy "I did not have s-ex with that girl" Clinton, John "Marilyn Monroe" Kennedy".

      Neither is possessing super athletic skill!!! e.g. Tiger "I am so sorry for getting caught" Woods.

      Neither is being an atheist or pagan or football coach since pedophilia is present in all walks of life.

      If someone is guilty of a crime in this litany of "neithers" they should or should have been penalized as the law dictates to include jail terms for pedophiliacs (priests, rabbis, evangelicals, boy scout leaders, married men/women, football coaches), divorce for adultery (Clinton, Kennedy, Woods), jail terms for obstruction of justice (Paterno et al Clinton, Cardinal Law) or child endangerment (Paterno in abstentia, Sandusky et al, Lynn) and the death penalty or life in prison for murder ("Kings David and Henry VIII).

      May 22, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
  19. Zakes Zambezi

    There is something called the laying on of hands in faith for the sick by believers

    May 22, 2013 at 8:51 am |
    • Peace

      sick believers? Witchcraft works?

      May 22, 2013 at 9:08 am |
  20. T

    ..............BUT, he did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.....................

    May 22, 2013 at 8:36 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
About this blog

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.