Romanian priest sentenced for fatal exorcism

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — A Romanian priest who led a dayslong exorcism ritual for a young nun that ended with the woman’s death was sentenced Monday to 14 years in prison.

Four nuns were also sentenced in the case. The dead nun, Maricica Irina Cornici, believed she heard the devil talking to her. She was treated for schizophrenia, but when she relapsed, Daniel Petru Corogeanu — a monk who served as the priest for the secluded Holy Trinity convent in northeast Romania — and the four other nuns tried exorcism.

Cornici, 23, was tied up for several days at the without food or water and chained to a cross. She died of dehydration, exhaustion and suffocation.

The court in the northeast city of Vaslui convicted Corogeanu and the nuns of holding Cornici captive, resulting in her death. One of the nuns, Nicoleta Arcalianu, was sentenced to eight years in prison, and the other three — Adina Cepraga, Elena Otel and Simona Bardanas — received five-year sentences.

Dozens of Corogeanu’s supporters packed the courtroom and prayed for the priest; several burst into tears when the verdict was announced.

The defendants’ lawyers plan to appeal.

Cornici’s death prompted Romania’s dominant Orthodox Church to promise reforms, including psychological tests for those seeking to enter monasteries.

The Orthodox church, which has benefited from a religious revival in recent years, condemned the ritual at the convent as “abominable” and banned Corogeanu from the priesthood and excommunicated the four nuns from the church.

In 1999, when the Vatican issued its first new guidelines since 1614 for driving out devils, it urged its priests to take modern psychiatry into account in deciding who should be exorcised.

Orthodox churches also regularly perform exorcism rituals, but Corogeanu’s methods were criticized by church officials as excessively harsh, noting that he had dropped out from the church’s religious education program.

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