Tanacu, Romania . June 22, 2005. A Romanian Orthodox priest who ordered the crucifixion of a young nun because she was "possessed by the devil" and now faces murder charges was unrepentant on Saturday as he celebrated a funeral mass for his alleged v
"God has performed a miracle for her, finally Irina is delivered from evil," Father Daniel, 29, the superior of the Holy Trinity monastery in north-eastern Romania, said before celebrating a short mass "for the soul of the deceased", in the presence of 13 nuns who showed no visible emotion.
He insisted that from the religious point of view, the crucifixion of Maricica Irina Cornici, 23, was "entirely justified", but admitted that he faced excommunication as well as prosecution, and was seeking a "good lawyer".
Cornici had entered the monastery just three months before Cornici was found dead on Wednesday, gagged and chained to a cross, after fellow nuns called an ambulance, according to police.
Mihaela Straub, spokesperson 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.
'She can't be laid in the church because she was possesed' 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. One of the nuns, Sister Martha, added, "She can't be laid in the church because she was possesed."
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.
A 34-year-old parishioner who had come to defend Daniel and gave her name as Dora, said Sister Irina " had to be punished, she had an argument with the Father during a Sunday mass and insulted him in front of the congregation."
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.
Since the fall of the communist regime in December 1989, the Orthodox Church, which represents 85 percent 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",k but a spokesperson for the Orthodox patriarchate in Bucharest refused to condemn it.
"I don't know what this young woman did," Bogdan Teleanu said. - Sapa-AFP