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The end is nigh, says cult leader

The Times, UK
Sep. 5, 1998
Michael Woodhead • Saturday September 5, 1998

Several hundred people from across Europe have joined a sect in the Black Forest headed by a Swiss former secretary who predicted the recent stock market falls and now claims the third world war will break out before the end of the year.

“Uriella”, 69 – born Erika Bertschinger – who has believed herself to be the reincarnation of the Virgin Mary since falling from a horse on to her head in 1973, has also warned her estimated 750 followers that a meteorite will soon hit the North Sea, destroying much of northern Europe.

By the turn of the millennium, she says, two-thirds of the world’s population will have been wiped out by floods, famine and pestilence and another catastrophic meteorite strike on North America.

“Christ speaks through me when he puts me into a trance,” said Uriella, dressed in layers of brilliant white lace as she sat calmly on a carved throne. “Then I speak his words without knowledge of what he is saying. I am his mouthpiece.”

Uriella’s disciples say her predictions should be taken seriously. She apparently warned on July 26 that the chain of events leading to the end of the world would begin on August 8, starting with an economic collapse followed by a Russian invasion of Western Europe. The financial markets have indeed declined and fears have been expressed that Russia, with its arsenal of poorly guarded weapons, could spin out of control.

The 26 long-standing resident members of the sect, Fiat Lux – Latin for Let There be Light – have swollen to more than 200 people in the last few months. Another 144 – many of them pensioners – are expected to join them in the next few days as the predicted apocalypse nears. Fiat Lux owns at least half a dozen luxurious houses in the picturesque Lindau Valley.

Despite the impending apocalypse, Uriella faces more worldly matters: she is due to appear in court in Mannheim tomorrow charged with avoiding tax on £500,000 of imported medicines.

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