Vatican Refuses to Call Event an Exorcism

ByABC News
September 11, 2000, 2:57 PM

R O M E, Sept. 12 -- Pope John Paul II blessed and comforted a distraught young woman who created a disturbance in St. Peters Square, the Vatican said, but it refused to characterize the encounter as an exorcism.

Il Messaggero , the leading daily newspaper in Rome, ran a story this weekend quoting Father Gabriele Amorth, head of the International Association of Exorcists, as saying the pope performed an exorcism on the 19-year-old Italian after Wednesdays audience.

The report said the young woman had been seated in the front rows usually reserved for the disabled, and apparently became very excited as the pope blessed the crowd of some 30,000 faithful. The woman, who was not identified, started yelling disjointed phrases in Italian as well as streams of words in unknown languages.

Failed Attempts to Calm Woman

Amorth, 74, was quoted as saying he had previously performed at least two exorcisms on the young woman without success. The priest said he has conducted exorcisms on 3,000 people in 14 years.

Il Messaggero said the young womans parents, who had been sitting with her in St. Peters Square, had hoped that seeing the pope would help their daughter.

A Vatican official, Archbishop Giovanni Danzi, was nearby at the time of the young womans outburst and tried to calm her. He showed her a crucifix and an image of the Virgin Mary, but she shouted insults at him, Il Messaggero reported.

It said Danzi advised Monsignor Stanislaw Dziwisz, the popes private secretary, who told the pope about the situation.

John Paul saw the obviously distressed woman as he was about to leave the square in his popemobile, but he got out of the vehicle to spend some time with her, said Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls.

No Exorcism, Vatican Says

Navarro-Valls said the pope did spend a few minutes with the woman but, as far as he knew, performed no exorcism.

First he blessed her, the spokesman said. He caressed her, he tried to calm her, bring her comfort. The pope appeared to calm her down, he said.