VATICAN CITY, May 21 (UPI) -- Pope Francis did not perform an exorcism on a young man in a wheelchair who attended mass at the Vatican on Pentecost, a spokesman said Tuesday.
The Rev. Federico Lombardi, in a statement on Vatican Radio, said the pope simply gave the man a blessing. Lombardi heads the Vatican press office.
Speculation about an exorcism arose after the pope, at the end of mass Sunday, laid his hands on the man's head and prayed. A panel of clergy specializing in exorcism, speaking on the Italian Bishops Conference's TV2000 satellite television channel's "Vade Retro" program Monday, said it appeared the pope recited a prayer to liberate the man from demons, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.
Sunday was Pentecost, the day celebrating the descent of the Holy Spirit to the Apostles.
"The Holy Father did not intend to perform any exorcism," Lombardi said. "Rather, as he frequently does with the sick and the suffering who come his way, he intended [to] simply pray for a suffering person who had been brought before him."
The Rev. Bernd Hagenkord, head of Vatican Radio's German section, said exorcism is a precise ritual that is performed very rarely. He said most cases of apparent demonic possession are actually mental illness.