email@example.com (Berny Torre)
The solemn 20-minute ritual was conducted days after the effigy to 18th century Spanish missionary Junipero Serra came down in northern California.
Archbishop Salvatore Cordilione of the Archdiocese of San Francisco said before beginning the ritual: “This sacred site has been been desecrated, so we know there is evil here.”
The archbishop, wearing a pink skullcap, proceeded to recite a 10-minute prayer in Latin in front of about 150 supporters on Saturday in a bid to drive out evil and defend Serra’s reputation, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
A program translation said the prayer referred 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.
Holy water was also sprinkled on the bushes and concrete detritus where the statue had stood as part of a special Mass inside St. Raphael Catholic Church in San Raphael north of San Francisco.
He later explained: “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.”
Serra, who was canonised a saint by Pope Francis five years ago, lived from 1713 to 1784.
He is known as the father of the California mission system and revered by worshipers for bringing the religion to the western US.
But critics claim he forced native Americans to give up their culture under the threat of brutal punishments.
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.
The statue is being repaired and will be returned to the site.