A man allegedly possessed of evil has had it exorcised by the Pontiff, Pope Francis I.
According to TV2000, a Catholic television channel, the act was carried out in St Peter’s Square after Mass on Sunday.
Smiling broadly, the Pope initially shook the man’s hand, but the South American pontiff’s expression changed dramatically after a priest from the Legionaries of Christ, a conservative order, leaned in close and spoke a few words to him.
With a more serious expression on his face, Francis placed both hands on the man’s head for 15 seconds.
The pilgrim, said to be a 43-year old married man from Mexico called Angelo, then convulsed briefly and emitted a long sigh. His body went limp and his mouth dropped open.
“Exorcists who have seen the footage have no doubt – this was a prayer for liberation from Evil, an actual exorcism,” said TV2000, which is owned by the Italian Bishops Conference.
The Vatican has tried to minimize the importance of the event, saying the Pope did not plan to perform an exorcism.
“The Holy Father did not intend to carry out any exorcism,” said Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman.
“Instead, as he often does for sick and suffering people, he simply intended to pray for a person who was presented to him.”
“The Pope is also the Bishop of Rome, and like any bishop he is also an exorcist,” Father Gabriele Amorth, the Catholic Church’s best known exorcist and the head of the International Association of Exorcists, told La Repubblica newspaper.
“It was a real exorcism,” he said. “If the Vatican has denied this, it shows that they understand nothing”, said Father Amorth who claimed that the Mexican was “possessed by four demons”.