The Vatican has denied that footage of Pope Francis taken last Sunday of him placing his hands on a disabled boy’s head shows him performing an exorcism.
Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said it had merely been a normal prayer for a sick or disabled visitor.
“Pope Francis did absolutely not intend to perform an exorcism on this occasion. 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.”
The allegation came from the director who had been filming Francis at the time. In his commentary he had said the boy’s shouting as he was being blessed looked like an exorcism.
The director has since apologised.
Tourists mixing with pilgrims in St Peter’s Square on Tuesday seemed divided over the matter and one questioned the relevance of the act of exorcism in modern times.
“I think that exorcism is just crazy, I mean, I don’t believe in such a thing, whatsoever,” said a tourist from Ohio, USA.
But another was more accepting of the practice:
“I think there is good and bad in the world, and that good has to be helped, so if the Pope did it, I think it’s reasonable.”
Exorcism is an ancient practice of driving out demons from a person or place. It exists in the Catholic church but is treated with huge scepticism by many believers.