TANACU, Romania — A Romanian Orthodox priest, facing charges for ordering the crucifixion of a young nun because shewas “possessed by the devil,” was unrepentant Saturday as he celebrated a funeral ceremony for his alleged victim.
“ I don’t understand why journalists are making such a fuss about this,” said Father Daniel.
He insisted that from the religious point of view the crucifixion of Maricica Irina Cornici, 23, was “entirely justified,” but admitted he faced excommunication as well as prosecution, and was seeking a “good lawyer.”
Prosecutors said Saturday they had charged the priest and four nuns with imprisonment leading to death, while religious authorities said he would be barred from celebrating liturgy until the investigation was completed. The monastery will be shut if they are found guilty, Father Daniel’s superiors said.
Cornici was found dead on Wednesday, gagged and chained to a cross, after fellow nuns called an ambulance, according to police.
Mihaela Straub, spokeswoman for the police in the province of Vaslui, said Daniel and four other nuns had claimed Cornici was possessed and should be exorcised.
Before being crucified she had been kept shut up for several days, her hands and feet tied and without food or drink, he said.
Cornici had entered the monastery just three months before, after visiting a friend who was a nun there, police said.
As her coffin entered the church of the monastery Saturday no church bells were sounded while nuns cast distrustful glances at the strangers, including two AFP reporters, present at the ceremony.
Claps of thunder from an approaching storm were sometimes the only sounds to break the silence.
“This storm is proof that the will of God has been done,” Daniel said.
“You see it?” said the priest, gesturing at the body, lying in an annexe and still showing the marks of the gag.
Daniel has lived for the past four years in the isolated monastery located in the hills of one of the poorest regions of Romania, without running water or electricity.
“Over there, in your world, the people must know that the devil exists. Personally I can find his work in the gestures and speech of possessed people, because man is often weak and lets himself be easily manipulated by the forces of evil,” said the bearded young priest.
“I don’t understand why journalists are making such a fuss about this. Exorcism is a common practise in the heart of the Romanian Orthodox church and my methods are not at all unknown to other priests,” he said.
Sociologist Alred Bulai said that corporal punishment was still commonly used in certain Romanian monasteries.
“It’s happening particularly in the isolated monasteries, where the superiors have difficulty understanding the current realities and adapting themselves to modern life,” Bulai said.
It was not clear why Father Daniel believed the nun was possessed. One parishoner, Dora, said the nun “had to be punished, she had an argument with the Father during a Sunday mass and insulted him in front of the congregation.”
Mediafax news agency reported Saturday that the Cornici had recently been treated for “schizophrenia” at the local hospital, but the chief of the local child welfare office, Ionel Bratianu, said the nun was “in good health and did not suffer from any psychiatric trouble.”
Cornici was raised in an orphanage until the age of 19, when she traveled to Germany to work as a nanny for a family of German doctors. After in-depth psychological and psychiatric tests, the German embassy had declared her apt to take care of children, said Bratianu.
Since the fall of the communist regime in December 1989, the Orthodox Church, which represents 85% of Romania’s 22 million inhabitants, is rated in many opinion polls as the most trusted institution in the country.
Vitalie Danciu, the superior of a nearby monastery at Golia, called the crucifixion “inexcusable,” but a spokesman for the Orthodox patriarchate in Bucharest refused to condemn it.
“I don’t know what this young woman did,” Bogdan Teleanu said.