London, June 19: A priest and four nuns each face up to 20 years in jail after performing an extraordinary exorcism on a 23-year-old woman who was chained to a cross, gagged and starved in the cellar of a Romanian convent.
The woman died, apparently of suffocation, because a towel had been stuffed into her mouth to muzzle her screams.
Maricica Irina Cornici, who was brought up in an orphanage before becoming a nun, was crucified for three days while Father Daniel, a Romanian Orthodox priest, recited prayers to banish evil spirits.
According to Romania’s Mediafax news agency, the woman was a schizophrenic, given to rapid mood shifts, and this had persuaded nuns in the convent in Romania, that she was possessed by the Devil. The priest, a big man with a red beard and glowing eyes, showed no remorse when he was arrested. “God has performed a miracle for her,” he said. “At last Irina has been delivered from evil.”
“I don’t understand why journalists are making such a fuss about this,” he said. The convent is in northwest Romania near Arad on the border of Transylvania. It is on the fringes of the dark forests which, according to legend, were stalked by vampires and werewolves. Bram Stoker based his account of Dracula on the legends and the notoriously cruel ruler Vlad the Impaler.
While exorcism is performed by both the Orthodox and Catholic Church, crucifixion is applied in only a few scattered Orthodox communities.
The four nuns were first instructed to trace the sign of the cross in oil upon their foreheads to protect them from the evil eye. The nuns then chained the victim and delivered responses to the priest’s incantations.
At the climax of the ceremony, the priest ' according to the Orthodox Book of Prayer ' is obliged to call out: “In the name of God Almighty, and the Lord Jesus Christ, I command you to come out of the victim, who is liberated and redeemed by the eternal God from the energies of the impure spirits.” Orthodox seminarians are taught that the rite could end violently.
The standard Orthodox texts on exorcism are full of stories of an epic struggle between the evil and the purifying spirits. Father Daniel and his four nuns appear to have gone well beyond the normal exorcism process.
Michaela Straub, a police spokeswoman, said the five would be charged with “depriving a victim of freedom, leading to death” ' a charge normally applied to hostage-takers. The maximum sentence is 20 years in jail.