The Vatican on Tuesday denied that Pope Francis had performed an exorcism after an Italian religious television channel said footage of the pontiff blessing a boy in a wheelchair showed he had.
“The Holy Father did not intend to perform any exorcism,” Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said in a statement, after the claims by TV 2000, which is owned by the Italian bishops’ conference.
“As he often does with sick and suffering people who are presented to him, he simply intended to pray for the suffering person,” Lombardi said.
The channel quoted exorcists saying there was “no doubt the pope was either reciting a prayer for freeing from the devil or performing an exorcism”.
The footage recorded by Vatican television shows the pontiff briefly laying both hands on the boy’s head during a Pentecost ceremony on Sunday, and the boy was seen shaking a few seconds.
TV 2000, which has previously aired claims that the pope’s predecessors John Paul II and Benedict XVI also exorcised the devil, is to broadcast a special programme on Friday devoted to “the pope’s struggle against the devil and his seductions”.
Exorcism is an ancient practice of driving out demons from a person or place, and exists in several religions including in Roman Catholicism, where it is treated with huge scepticism by many believers, a practice which raises no eyebrow in Christianity where many Christians revere men of God who can performs exorcism- or deliverance.