Alleged pope incarnate excommunicated

Bishop also issues warning to woman claiming to be Virgin MaryPu

Associated Press/December 14, 2005

Puerto Rico (AP) -- A Roman Catholic bishop here has excommunicated members of a communal sect whose leader allegedly claims to be a manifestation of the late Pope John Paul II.

Sect leader Edwin Gonzalez Concepcion and his followers can no longer receive communion or participate in church activities, according to the order issued by Mayaguez Bishop Ulises Casiano Vargas.

Gonzalez, a former firefighter in the town of Aguada, has told his followers that he became a manifestation of John Paul when the pope died in April and that Pope Benedict XVI is the "antichrist," according to the order, which priests in the diocese read to their congregations Sunday.

Members of the group couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

The bishop also alleged that another sect leader, Gladys Miranda, claims she is the Virgin Mary, and that followers of the group make it hard for parishioners to receive communion by lying face-down in the aisle.

"After many public and private warnings ... these brothers refuse to abandon their practices and repeatedly continue their affirmations that are contrary to the Catholic faith," the bishop wrote.

The church said several women and children live in the group's home about two hours west of San Juan, the capital.

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