Cleansing the Pope

In yesterday's National Catholic Reporter, columnist John Allen tells the following story.

In the summer of 2002, Pope John Paul II was in Mexico City to canonize Juan Diego, the Aztec visionary devotee of Our Lady of Guadalupe. On the day after the canonization mass, John Paul also beatified two indigenous martyrs. As on the previous day, the event was greeted with boisterous celebration — falling confetti, beating drums, roaring trumpets, and Zapotec dancers from the State of Oxaca.

In the midst of these dancers was an elderly female shaman carrying a cluster of burning herbs. She performed a purification ritual known as a limpia, a cleansing, intended, among other things, to drive away evil spirits. The shaman ritualistically brushed the herbs first on Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, and then on John Paul II himself.

The limpia had been approved by Archbishop Piero Marini, at the time the Master of Pontifical Liturgical Celebrations, regarded as perhaps the leading advocate of progressive reform in Catholic liturgy. He believes deeply in inculturation — allowing the rites of the church to reflect the idiom and traditions of local cultures. The intent was apparently that the indigenous purification rite could be infused with a Christian significance.

So, in effect, the shaman performed an exorcism on the pope.

I just thought I would pass that along.


  1. Thank you for your comment, as well as your very interesting blog on pandeism, a term I had not heard before. I would be grateful, in fact, if you would take a look at my blog post on pantheism and give me your thoughts in a comment.