GUATEMALA CITY: Guatemala City prohibited a march by supporters of a Florida-based religious sect whose leader has declared himself the Antichrist and urged his followers to tattoo their arms with the numbers ‘666.’
Capital authorities said Friday the controversial Growing in Grace sect — which has about a dozen offices and 2,500 followers in Guatemala — did not comply with laws that require religious groups to respect each other.
“We are concerned that they are shown on television destroying Catholic imagery,” said Edgar Cifuentes, the legal adviser to the provincial government that covers the nation’s capital.
The sect’s head pastor in Guatemala, Jorge Batres, said he was disappointed by the decision, though did not say whether the group would go ahead with the march planned for Saturday.
“I am bound by my bishop and my prophet, and they will be the ones to decide whether we go ahead or not,” Batres said in reference to sect leader Jose Luis De Jesus Miranda.
De Jesus has claimed to be Jesus and more recently declared himself the Antichrist, based on his belief that his life and teachings have superceded those of Jesus of Nazareth. Members say the use of “666” does not mean they are Satanists, but reflects their leader’s belief that he has replaced Christ’s teachings.
The number 666 appears in the Book of Revelation, a portion of the New Testament that details the prophet John’s apocalyptic vision of the rise of the Antichrist, the tribulation and Christ’s return. In Revelation, a horned beast appears on earth and requires everyone to get his mark — 666 — on the right hand or forehead.
Critics have called De Jesus a cult leader who manipulates followers. Members say he has brought them happiness and spiritual fulfillment.
The sect’s headquarters is in Doral, Florida.