Picture: 123RF/ANDRIY POPOV
Picture: 123RF/ANDRIY POPOV

Abadiania, Brazil — A famous Brazilian “spiritual healer” accused by hundreds of women of sexual abuse told his followers on Wednesday he is innocent of the allegations against him.

“I am not guilty,” Joao Teixeira de Faria, 76, known internationally as “Joao de Deus” or “John of God”, declared at his healing centre in a small town near the capital Brasilia.

Police are investigating complaints by more than 450 women who have come forward since Globo TV and O Globo newspaper aired claims last week by a dozen of his followers that he forced them into sex acts under pretext of curing them.

It was Faria’s first public appearance since the accusations were made. Wednesday is the day he usually receives people believing in his supernatural powers to treat illnesses ranging from depression to cancer.

Faria was greeted with cries, applause and tears by his faithful, who were all dressed in white. Many of them were foreigners. He departed less than 10 minutes later after a few words to his congregation.

Claudio Jose Pruja, a volunteer who has been at the centre for 21 years, said Faria was too shaken to do any of his “cures”.

Oprah Winfrey

“He’s affected. He can’t speak or do [spiritual] incorporations. To do his spiritual work he needs to be relaxed,” Pruja said.

Around 40% of the 10,000 people who flocked to see him each month before the accusation were foreigners, according to the mayor of Abadiania, where Faria’s centre is located.

Some hailed from as far as the US, South Africa, Australia and Europe, drawn by reports of Faria’s “miracles” — notably a 2013 television show broadcast by US celebrity Oprah Winfrey.

The steady flow of visitors is an important revenue source for Abadiania, a tiny rural town of 15,000 inhabitants, and there were fears that could dry up if Faria’s reputation is irredeemably tarnished.

Faria’s spokesperson at the centre, Edna Gomes, said the healer was “doing well, is calm” and was waiting for the investigations to run their course. She said she had never seen anything to corroborate the accusations. “Justice will clear this up. Above all, he is an innocent person,” she said.

Three Brazilian presidents have sought his services in the past: former leftist leaders Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and his successor Dilma Rousseff, who have both battled cancer; and current President Michel Temer, before a prostate operation.

Prosecutors in the state of Goias — where Abadiania is located — said in a statement on Tuesday that 206 women had lodged complaints against Faria in their jurisdiction.

Prosecutors in Sao Paulo told media they have received another 252 complaints.

AFP