Crisis In The Universal Church

January 30, 1997

A Brazilian magazine "IstoÉ" researching Igreja Universal do Reino de Deus (IURD), which has a strong presence in Portugal, predicts that the sectarian empire is crumbling.

The leader of the sect Bishop Edir Macedo has left his place of refuge in Florida, United States and is in Brazil trying to keep the massive movement from coming apart at the seams. According to the magazine, in 1989 IURD had three million members in Brazil and an annual income of 200 million contos, presently they are reduced to one third of their membership with an annual income of 90 million contos. IURD owns television stations, hundreds of small radio stations and several magazines and newspapers. It cannot maintain the running costs of its operation without massive investments. To aggravate circumstances Bishop Paulo Roberto da Conceição, the financial mastermind responsible for the success of the sect and director of Banco de Crédito Comercial in São Paulo, disappeared with 300 thousand contos of IURD's money.

The crisis started when one of IURD's bishops went on television kicking and slapping an image of the virgin Mary referring to the Roman Catholic object of worship as a "dumb idol". A video of Edir Macedo training sect pastors to extract money from faithful followers was then shown on public television. Tax evasion, problems with fiscal authorities, followed by conflicts with Rede Globo - Brazil's most powerful television network - finally led to the abandonment of thousands of followers. Edir Macedo has long been in the limelight, his clashes with police and government are well documented. In spite of owning a private jet, a fleet of motor cars, luxury homes and property in several countries, he is enrolled in Portugal's welfare system declaring that he earns minimum wage and receives State benefits.

IURD has been planted in most Portuguese speaking countries and while it continues to grow in Mozambique and Angola, The News confirmed that in Portugal their days seem to be numbered.

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