Purging of 'demons' nets millions

The Telegraph/January 14, 2001
By Jonathan Petre, Chris Hastings and Adam Lusher

The Christian fundamentalist church which offered to exorcise Anna Climbie days before she died has made tens of millions of pounds by offering to rid devotees of demons across the world.

The "deliverance" ceremonies are just one of a number of services provided by the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God to adherents, who are expected to hand over 10 per cent of their income in cash or by credit card.

The movement promises panaceas for most afflictions, from curses, witchcraft and hauntings to anxiety, depression and alcohol addiction. On its website, it claims that Jacques Cousteau, the French underwater explorer, discovered the location of hell. Visitors are offered the opportunity to hear the "screams of hell" on a cassette tape, which is available for £1.99.

Such is its wealth that it was able to buy one of Britain's top rock venues, the Rainbow Theatre in Finsbury Park, north London, for £2.35 million in 1995, having failed to buy the Brixton Academy for £4 million. The church, a registered charity, yesterday issued a lengthy explanation of its role to its members, stressing that it had had little contact with Anna and her great- aunt Marie Therese Kouao, although the couple had made three visits.

In its newsletter, which will be issued at tonight's Evening of Miracles service, the head of the movement in Britain, Bishop Renato Cardoso, said that, on their third visit, one of the church's pastors had noticed that the child was very ill and in need of medical attention.

He said: "An assistant from Finsbury Park was sent to the hospital to continue to pray for her, but unfortunately, Anna died in hospital. An observer at the trial praised UCKG as one of the only organisations that took action to help the child."

Some of the evidence at the trial, however, sounded more like the film The Exorcist. One pastor from the church said that Anna was "possessed" and ran down the aisle during a service the week before her death, screaming "prayer doesn't help", apparently on the orders of her aunt.

The Protestant evangelical movement was founded in Brazil in 1977 by Edir Macedo, a shop assistant, and rapidly spread to 85 other countries including Britain, where it claims to have 4,500 regular members.

It has attracted worldwide controversy and its founder has been investigated for alleged tax fraud and links with the cocaine industry. According to reports, the movement has 200,000 members, more than 2,000 churches and a daily income of more than £1 million.

Note: Also see "Confusion as Climbie church cleared over exorcisms"

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