ROSARIO, Argentina — A Chilean archbishop is being questioned for performing an “exorcism” over his diocese from an airplane in an attempt to cast out the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Archbishop Fernando Chomali on Sunday got on a small plane, and filmed himself as he threw Holy Water over the city of Concepcion, in the hopes of “exorcising” it from the pandemic.

The virus has killed over 1,000 people in the city of around 220,000 inhabitants.

The prelate shared the video on Twitter, but hours later, and after over 10,000 people had seen it, he took it down due to the controversy it was causing.

“Blessing of Concepcion and exorcism to cast the coronavirus from our lives,” he said in the video. “God is great!”

A few days earlier, Chomali had asked the faithful to not attend the celebrations of the Feast of St. Sebastian, marked every Jan. 20, and traditionally attended by half a million people. The shrine dedicated to the saint was closed in the weeks leading to the feast, and all activities were instead transmitted online.

In a statement released Jan. 27, Chomali explained his action and challenged those who criticized it, saying the Catholic Church will continue to offer blessings and promote the common good.

“Given the serious health, economic, political and social crisis in which we find ourselves, in addition to a deep desire to contribute and fulfill the mission that [Pope] Francis has entrusted to me, on Sunday, January 24, for approximately 20 minutes, I blessed from an airplane the inhabitants of Concepción, Lirquén, Tomé, Chiguayante and Hualqui,” Chomali said.

The action was done with all the needed permissions, including from the Navy, the Ministry of the General Government and the Ministry of Health. The pilot also had all the necessary paperwork.

Chomalí asked God to bless and give strength to the region’s inhabitants at this time of crisis.

“It was a very profound moment of prayer, thanks to the generosity of an experienced pilot who offered me this opportunity,” he wrote in the statement. 

Chomalí indicated that he also asked God for the spirit of evil to be expelled from those who do not respect the law.

“Those who do not care about the common good, who believe that life is just fun and do not know what it is to sacrifice for others, and instead organize clandestine parties and infect others,” the archbishop wrote.

Illegal parties attended primarily by young people have been a key cause for the rapid increase of COVID-19 cases in most of Latin America.

Chomali said that the local church will continue to “bless and promote the common good according to the times in which we live” and it will also continue carrying out charitable actions and social works “that fill us with hope.”

Addressing those who voiced “perplexity” over his actions on Sunday, the archbishop asked for them to “broaden their view of life” and respect those who think differently.

“Others, simply full of intolerance, were upset that I invoked God to end the pandemic: I am a man of faith and I have not only the right, but also the duty to turn to Him, to enlighten us in the face of what is beyond us,” Chomali said, defending himself.

Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma