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John of God: The Brazil medium said to cure thousands

April 23, 2012 ABADIANIA, Brazil, April 23 Every week using mainly his hands but also armed with scissors, a knife and scalpel, Joao Teixeira de Faria, a self-styled Brazilian medium and psychic surgeon, treats thousands of sick people who claim to be cured. Among those who have sought the services of the healer known as John of God has been Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the popular former Brazilian president, now said to be in remission from larynx cancer. I am going to cure you, de Faria told one young woman during a session in the small town of Abadiania in the central state of Goias. After going into a trance, he stuck a four-centimetre needle into the sole of her feet. Dont look, its going to hurt, he warned her as he thrust the needle in several times.

Joao de Deus (John of God) (right) tends to a patient. AFP pic The young woman apparently felt nothing and when it was over, the nearly illiterate faith healer flashed a big smile. His patient, visibly moved, extols that she has just been cured from a chronic illness that doctors could not treat. John of God, born on June 24, 1942, is an adept at spiritism, a religious doctrine based on the belief in the survival of a spirit after death. Founded in the 19th century by Frenchman Allan Kardec, spiritism today is particularly popular in Brazil, where it has nearly three million followers. The healers entourage said John of God paid several visits to the former president when he was being treated at a Sao Paulo hospital for a larynx cancer.

Lula, however, has refused to confirm or deny press reports that he met at least three times in Sao Paulo with the healer. American TV show hostess Oprah has also visited the town to film the crowds who gather around the healer. John of God says he communicates with spirits when he goes into a trance. He diagnoses diseases, prescribes medication and conducts surgeries, either with his hands, or with kitchen knives, scalpels or scissors. Since the age of eight, God has given me this energy, the spiritual healer told AFP during a brief respite. I dont heal. God heals. He receives about 1,000 people a day, three times a week, and more than half of them are foreigners. The ritual is always the same: the faith healer sits in a big armchair, his feet on a cushion. In front of him and in adjacent rooms, several hundred followers and so-called mediums meditate to form an energy circle. One by one, the patients then parade before John of God who treats them, gives them instructions or calls them to come back for a surgery or treatment, often in less than a minute. Miracle man or charlatan? In one operation, performed without anaesthetic, the medium opened up the eye of one patient and began scratching it with a knife, according to Reinaldo Daher, an orthopaedic doctor who witnessed the operation. You could hear the scraping, Daher told AFP. The patient did not flinch and he told him: You are healed, you can go. Daher fervently believes in the healers powers. I have to believe because I have seen it, he said. But some, particularly in the medical establishment, are wondering whether John of God is a miracle man or a charlatan. We have a major dilemma in Brazil, Emmanuel Fortes, audit director of the Brazilian Federal Council of Medicine, told AFP. The constitution guarantees freedom of faith, which makes it difficult to take any actions against illegally practising medicine or charlatanism. He said the council warned people against inconsistencies in some practices, as well as those which do not offer any guarantees. We do not recommend that patients abandon their traditional medicines and prescribed drugs. Many of de Farias patients turn to him as a last resort after being disappointed by mainstream medicine. Others come seeking jobs or spirituality. And many just come to say thank you.

All will be received, said a volunteer through a microphone. Instructions and spiritual messages are transmitted in English, French, Spanish, German, Russian and Portuguese. I arrived in 2006 with multiple sclerosis diagnosed in 1999, said Marina, a New York-based Russian woman who said she had been in a wheelchair. And now you can see, I am cured and I can walk, said Marina, who now comes several times a year to work as a medium and a guide in Abadiania. My symptoms are gone. For the past 35 years, John of God has been receiving patients and admirers in this small town, where the economy revolves around his healing centre. There are more than 40 inns and dozens of taxis operating shuttle services to and from Brasilia airport. There is no charge for the treatment. His centre maintains that its income comes from donations, sales of natural remedies and purified water. But the scepticism from the Brazilian establishment remains. Operations in a contaminated environment and unnecessary therapies at religious events are illegal, the vice-president of the Federal Council of Medicine of Brazil, Vital Carlo, told Globo television. AFP/relaxnews