SAN JOSE – Faith leaders at a small church in San Jose where a three-year-old girl last died have confirmed they performed a ceremony to “free her from evil spirits” but says that what happened was the “will of God,” not the result of an exorcism.
“If you read the Bible, you will see that Jesus drove away demons and made sick people healthy again,” said René Huejo, pastor of the Iglesia Apostolus y Profetas and the victim’s grandfather. “It’s not when I want to do it, it’s when God wants to heal the person by His will. The preacher is like an instrument of God; we do what God says.”
Arielle Naomi Proctor’s death from asphyxiation has been ruled a homicide by the Santa Clara County Medical Examiner’s office. Her mother, Claudia Hernandez, who officials say withheld food from the girl and squeezed her neck during the exorcism, was arrested and charged with assaulting a child that resulted in death. But neither Huejo nor the victim’s uncle, both of whom allegedly put the girl down as the ceremony continued, have not been charged in the incident at the church on the 1000 block of South Second Street in San Jose.
The church also involved at least one suspect in the kidnapping of a newborn boy in San Jose last month, but church members said they knew nothing about that crime.
Huzzo, who carried out the exorcism on Proctor in September, apparently looked worried and upset after a Sunday evening church service, saying he felt great pain over the death of his grandson. It is difficult for people to understand what happened, he said, but “this is God’s stuff, and everything is in God’s will no matter how small or big.”
Although he did not want to discuss the details of the exorcism, Huejo said that Ariely was asleep when she went to church, and the entire ceremony took about two hours. He said the girl was not screaming or showing any signs of distress.
“What happened… well, what do we know,” said Huejo.
Nevertheless, Oscar Ayala, a church preacher who was not present during the exorcism, acknowledged that those who were there should have sought medical help sooner. Court documents say Hernandez waited an hour or two after the girl’s death to call 911.
“We know we haven’t done anything dark, and we know we have a clean conscience, we haven’t done any harm, we haven’t incited the girl’s death,” Ayala said. “As I say, caution and action was not taken to deal with that matter. What happened was natural.”
But Ayala continued, “Maybe, I don’t know, we didn’t take the most logical approach, and we should have taken precautions, like, taking her to the hospital to make sure she was okay.”
Ayala disagreed with the use of the term “exorcism” in relation to Areli’s death, but maintained that the demonic authority was real. “If you read the word of the Lord, you know that Jesus casts out demons.”
Experts and faith leaders familiar with the highly charismatic type of Pentecostal evangelism practiced by Iglesia Apostole y Profetus were stunned by the practice of exorcism on a small child such as Areli. Pastor Rafael Escobar, who leads a sister church in Reseda, said the San Jose congregation no longer belongs to their alliance and expressed disappointment at the church’s use of exorcism, calling it a “dark practice”.
Timothy Wadkins, professor of theology at Canisius University, said that while Pentecostal churches in El Salvador are known to practice exorcism – and that fasting is often part of the ritual – it is unusual for a three-year-old to use exorcism. .
“It is certainly true that Pentecostal fanatics believe in and practice fringe exorcism and believe that people can be possessed by the devil,” Wadkins said. “They believe that laying hands on people and calling upon Satan is a way of getting rid of their possessions, in the name of Jesus. You don’t see this very often in Pentecostal circles today, but you do see them in the fundamentalist range.”
On Sunday night, after a week of his church being at the center of a news cycle that brought scrutiny to the congregation, only five people were seen sitting in the small one-room church as Huejo opened a raised pulpit. gave a passionate sermon.
Traditional symbols of Christianity are absent in the small church, which is found behind a house in the south of the city and serves about 25 members of the local Salvadoran and Mexican community. Worshipers divided themselves into a main aisle, with three women wearing white lace veils covering their hair on the left, and a couple of men – holding a sleeping girl – on the right, they all chant Huzhou’s sermon. Hallelujah”.
After about two and a half hours, the group sat together at a long plastic table and ate together from plates of steamed yucca, fried plantains and cabbage salad – common Salvadoran staples. As they ate, congregations and church leaders said they were shocked when they learned that the woman suspected of kidnapping a three-month-old boy last month was a member of their smaller congregation.
“It was incredible. We couldn’t believe it,” Ayala said, adding that she was “shocked” when she realized the connection between her church and the kidnapping.
“We know this person came here, but outside, as in his personal life, we didn’t know. We never suspected anything and never thought it would happen.”
Eliza Melendez, a member of the congregation, said she did not see the kidnapping coming.
“Who can know the heart of a man? Only God, ”said Melendez.