One of the world’s largest and most controversial Pentecostal churches has been given permission to build a $200m (£130m) replica of Solomon’s Temple in Brazil’s economic capital, São Paulo.
The 10,000 capacity “mega-church”, which is the brainchild of Brazil’s Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, will also house a replica of the Ark of the Covenant and be built according to “biblical orientations”.
According to the Estado de São Paulo newspaper, planning permission was granted this week and church officials say it should be completed in four years.
The 55-metre high temple, the equivalent of an 18-storey building, would tower over central São Paulo and be “twice the height of [Rio’s] Christ the Redeemer statue”, the blog [by leader and founder, Bishop Edir Macedo] said.
Founded in Brazil in 1977, the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God claims an estimated 8 million followers in 180 countries worldwide, with a TV channel and a free newspaper, the Folha Universal, which it says has a weekly print run of 2.5m. The church claims its leader’s blog receives up to 4m hits a month.
The church supports so-called “prosperity theology” – by which acts of faith including donations are rewarded with material wealth.
In 2009, São Paulo’s public prosecutor accused 10 senior members of the church, including Macedo, of siphoning off billions of dollars of donations to buy cars and property. Macedo, who denied the charges, owns a $45m private jet.
In 1998, Alan Riding reported for The Times that the Brazilian police investigated charges that the Universal Church “pretends to cure people by expelling the Devil from their bodies, using grotesque and humiliating gestures reminiscent of the barbaric sects of the Middle Ages.”