San Francisco archbishop holds exorcism where protesters toppled Junipero Serra statue

A Roman Catholic archbishop performed an exorcism in Northern California on Saturday morning at the site where racial injustice protesters toppled a statue of 18th-century Spanish missionary Junipero Serra days earlier.

Unlike in movies, real exorcisms are often solemn church rituals like Saturday’s, which was intended to drive out evil and defend Serra’s reputation.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of the Archdiocese of San Francisco performed the ritual in front of about 150 supporters before celebrating a special Mass inside St. Raphael Catholic Church in San Raphael north of San Francisco.

Serra, who lived from 1713 to 1784 and was canonized by Pope Francis in 2015, is known as the father of the California mission system.

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San Francisco's Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone conducts an exorcism Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020, outside Saint Raphael Catholic Church in San Rafael, Calif., on the spot where a statue of St. Junipero Serra was toppled during a protest on Oct. 12. (Associated Press)

San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone conducts an exorcism Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020, outside Saint Raphael Catholic Church in San Rafael, Calif., on the spot where a statue of St. Junipero Serra was toppled during a protest on Oct. 12. (Associated Press)

The church reveres Serra for bringing Roman Catholicism to the Western United States but critics claim he forced Native Americans to give up their culture or face brutal punishment.

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“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,” Cordileone said after saying prayers in the official language of the church.

Serra statues in Los Angeles and Sacramento have also been vandalized by protesters.

San Raphael police said five suspects have been arrested in connection with the vandalism.

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The statue is being repaired and will be returned to the site.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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