GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — An American religious leader who calls himself the “Anti-christ” canceled a visit to Guatemala after the Central American country barred him as a security risk, saying he provokes conflict with Roman Catholics and evangelicals.
Puerto-Rican born Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda wears the number 666 tattooed on his arm and claims a following of 2 million people, most in Miami, where he lives, and Colombia. His Growing in Grace church holds a congress every year in different locations in the Americas.
Guatemala’s Congress had labeled De Jesus Miranda a terrorist and immigration officials were instructed to refuse him entry to the country, where thousands of his followers from around the world had gathered.
He had vowed to defy the ban but canceled Saturday and will instead address the gathering in a video teleconference, said the sect’s head pastor in Guatemala, Jorge Batres.
“We’re a church respectful of the law and we will have to wait until the judge gives us an injunction,” Batres said.
Batres said De Jesus Miranda’s Guatemalan followers will “firmly fight within the law so that he can come and let the world know that Jesus the Man is in Guatemala.”
De Jesus Miranda founded the Growing in Grace church in 1986. He preaches to followers in some 35 nations, mostly in Latin America, and has 287 radio programs and a 24-hour Spanish-language TV network.
He often takes aim at the Catholic Church — the most powerful faith in Latin America — calling all priests child molesters and saying chastity vows contradict the Bible’s teachings.
De Jesus Miranda preaches that sin and the devil do not exist. In January, he declared that he and his followers were anti-christs because their beliefs supersede those of Jesus Christ. The Bible describes the Anti-christ as someone who will fill the world with wickedness but be conquered by a second coming of Christ.
De Jesus Miranda has also been denied entry into El Salvador and Honduras.