The question has been swirling ever since Pope Francis laid his hands on the head of a young man in a wheelchair after celebrating Mass in St. Peter's Square last Sunday.
The young man heaved deeply half a dozen times, shaking and opening his mouth as if screaming for a few seconds and he then slumped in his wheelchair as Francis prayed over him.
The television station of the Italian bishops' conference, TV 2000, said it had surveyed exorcists, who agreed there was "no doubt" that Francis either performed an exorcism or a prayer to free the man from the devil.
The Vatican issued a statement through spokesman Federico Lombardi today, saying that Francis "did not intend to perform any exorcism."
"As he often does with sick and suffering people who are presented to him, he simply intended to pray for the suffering person."
TV 2000 quoted exorcists saying there was "no doubt the pope was either reciting a prayer for freeing from the devil or performing an exorcism."
But the channel's director, Dino Boffo, issued an apology today, saying: "I unconsciously gave the go ahead for the publication of a piece of news that was true but only partly so, because the pope denies having performed an exorcism."
The Vatican's former chief exorcist Gabriele Amorth said on Sunday that Francis' act "was an exorcism alright and if Father Lombardi denies this, he clearly does not have a clue."
"That was a real exorcism and what is more, the boy the pope exorcised came to me today," Amorth said in a radio interview quoted in La Stampa daily's Vatican Insider insert.
"His name is Angelo and he is possessed by four demons. I performed a long exorcism on him," he added.
Amorth insisted that the pope's gesture "does qualify as an exorcism because an exorcism is also performed by placing one's hands on a person's head and praying, without resorting to written exorcisms."
TV2000, which has previously aired claims that the pope's predecessors John Paul II and Benedict XVI also exorcised the devil, is to broadcast a special programme on Friday devoted to "the pope's struggle against the devil and his seductions".
Exorcism is an ancient practice of driving out demons from a person or place, and exists in several religions including in Roman Catholicism, where it is treated with huge scepticism by many believers.