The leader of a self-proclaimed Catholic prayer group and four other members have been arrested in relation to the death of a teenage girl who had attended one of their “exorcisms”.
The arrests were made last week in the Ivory Coast, West Africa, on the charge of “intentional assault and battery” following the death of Grace Alexandra Yao on May 18.
The 16-year-old was reportedly beaten with rosary beads, sticks and other objects the previous night and was later declared dead at a hospital in San Pedro, Ivory Coast.
The group responsible, called “Rosa Mystica”, held the prayer event at the residence of its leader Florence Adaï, a clairvoyant who claims to have Marian visions.
During the meeting, the group declared that Grace was a witch who was responsible for the illnesses of her sister, Victoire, and they subsequently set upon her calling for her deliverance.
Many in the country have debated whether or not the group was Catholic, with some claiming that it had links with another fringe Catholic community, “Maria Rosa Mystica”.
This latter group was suspended by the Church in 2019, following claims on national television by its members that its founder, Maman Pauline, a self-described former witch, “was God and has saved the Ivory Coast through her light.”
Maman Pauline’s group, however, released a statement saying that they “don’t know this prayer group from San Pedro”.
Speaking on behalf of the Diocese of San Pedro, Fr Jerome Kato denounced Florence Adaï’s “Rosa Mystica” group and denied that it was associated with the Catholic Church.
“To avoid confusion, this is the time to reaffirm that this group called Rosa Mystica has never existed as a private association in any parish of the diocese of San Pedro,” Fr Kato said.
“It doesn’t even have a physical or legal existence. Furthermore, it has not received any kind of recognition or even simple tolerance from Church authorities,” he added.
The statement concluded with a request for prayers for the deceased and her family.
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