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Did Pope Francis Carry a Wiccan Stang to Open the Synod of Bishops?

Pope Francis (C) arrives for the Holy Mass for the opening of the XV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Saint Peters Square .

On October 3, Pope Francis opened the Synod of Bishops on the topic of "youth, faith and vocational discernment" in Saint Peters Square in Vatican City, and instead of holding a traditional papal ferula he was clutching what looked a lot like a Wiccan "stang." Conservative Catholics were appalled and viewed the pope's choice of staff as evidence that something diabolical is going on at the Vatican. Others thought it was no big deal.

A ferula is a pastoral staff with a cross at the top. As there is no set style, it has come in various forms over the years.

(AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

(AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

A stang, like the one Pope Francis seemed to be holding at the synod, is a forked staff used by witches to perform rituals and spells.

"In its simplest form, a forked staff, Witches use the Stang in various ways including representing the Horned One, aiding in spirit flight, and directing energy," a pagan blogger wrote at Patheos.

Witches claim that they can draw spirits up from the underworld through their stangs.

Pope Francis seemed to be carrying a forked staff -- which is technically a stang. But is that what it really was?

It was presented to Pope Francis by two young women at an August 11 prayer vigil with youth in Rome's Circus Maximus.

(Sipa via AP Images)

Acripensa:

A young woman of 30 years, identified as Elena, told the Pontiff that during the pilgrimage “we have experienced that each path needs his cane and on this special occasion we give him a staff sculpted from a log.”

“In the torn heart of Jesus on the cross is guarded a small seed, that seed that dies to bear fruit and our hope. And it reveals the secret to make life flourish, love,” said the young woman explaining the meaning of the staff. She also told Pope Francis that “it would be beautiful for this staff to accompany him during the Youth Synod. All of us gathered here could feel that we are at their side and connect our heart and our memory to this extraordinary meeting. ”

“Holy Father, we have come here to tell you that we love you very much and we want to walk forward together,” she added.

Up close, the staff does look like it could be a depiction of Christ on the cross:

Moreover, as Deacon Greg Kandra notes, different cultures throughout history have shown depictions of the cross in radically different ways, including what is known as the Furka cross:

[This cross] is referred to as the thieves or robbers cross as it is believed that in Roman controlled Judea criminals were crucified on a forked cross, but such crosses would be costly to build so it is unlikely it was actually used. The three arms of this cross remind us of the Holy Trinity and the attributes of God: omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence.

One of the women was wearing a red string bracelet that many people on the internet identified as a witchy "Kabbalah bracelet," but looking closely, it more resembles a red knotted rosary bracelet.

PJ Media's verdict? It seems to me that the stang-like ferula, however poorly conceptualized, was probably given to the pope in good faith and with the best of intentions. The Vatican, on the other hand, dropped the ball by letting the pontiff use the diabolical-looking thing to open the Synod. They had months to research what a forked staff usually signifies and how the optics would appear. The embattled pope carrying what looked to many like a stang used by witches to cast spells while the Vatican is struggling to regain its good reputation amid the clerical abuse scandal was an unforced error, to say the least.

Although Pope Francis has earned the vast majority of criticism that has come his way in recent months, we can rest assured that at least for the time being, he is not presiding over Black Masses at the Vatican.