You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

S.F. archbishop holds exorcism after Junipero Serra statue was vandalized

San Francisco Chronicle logo San Francisco Chronicle 10/17/2020 By Michael Cabanatuan

About 150 people attended an exorcism Saturday morning outside St. Raphael Catholic Church in downtown San Rafael, where a statue of St. Junipero Serra was toppled Monday during a protest.

The church is also known as Mission San Rafael Arcangel, the 20th of the California missions.

The 20-minute ceremony, led by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, featured a lot of prayers — most of them in Latin — and some holy water sprinkled on the bushes and concrete detritus where the statue had stood.

For most people, including most Catholics, their main exposure to exorcism has come from movies including “The Exorcist,” a 1973 horror film in which two priests are called in to drive evil spirits out of a young girl who has been possessed. During the lengthy process, her head spins, and she curses the priest and vomits green goo before the devil is finally cast out.

Exorcism, however, is more commonly a solemn ceremony like Saturday’s, a religious ritual to evict the devil or evil spirits from an area or person.

Most attendees Saturday were part of an antiabortion group holding a special Mass inside the church before a scheduled march to a Planned Parenthood clinic.

Standing on a crowded sidewalk along Fifth Avenue, and occasionally drowned out by traffic noise, Cordileone explained during the ceremony the intention was to drive out evil and defend the image of Serra, who he said established the missions “not to dominate and annihilate” but to expose native Californians to the teachings of Catholicism “and save them from domination and annihilation.”

Serra, a Spanish missionary priest who was proclaimed a saint in 2015, is considered the father of the California mission system, which has been criticized for destroying the cultures of native tribes. The vandalism took place on Columbus Day, which several cities now call Indigenous Peoples’ Day in recognition of the country’s first residents.

“This sacred site has been been desecrated, so we know there is evil here,” Cordileone said before beginning the ritual. The archbishop, wearing a pink skullcap, said the prayers in Latin.

“The experts in the field tell me that Latin tends to be more effective against the devil because he doesn’t like the language of the church,” he said.

Cordileone recited a 10-minute prayer that only a few in the crowd seemed to readily understand. But a program provided a handy translation of the proceedings, with the prayers referring to Satan and his followers as a “cursed dragon and all diabolical legions” and calling for his “proud head” to be “crushed.”

“Be gone, Satan, inventor and master of all fallacy, enemy of the salvation of men. Place yourself before Jesus Christ,” the archbishop commanded.

Cordileone then sprinkled holy water on the former home of the Serra statue, the bushes that surrounded it and the crowd that was observing. The ceremony concluded with the crowd reciting the Lord’s Prayer, the “Our Father,” then heading back into the church.

According to the San Rafael Police Department, five people were arrested for vandalism for knocking over the statue, leaving just the missionary’s feet attached to the concrete base, after a largely peaceful demonstration against Serra. The statue is being repaired, said Jan Potts, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of San Francisco, and will be returned to the site.

Michael Cabanatuan is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: mcabanatuan@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @ctuan

AdChoices
AdChoices

More from San Francisco Chronicle

San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Chronicle
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon