Controversial religious figure in Garden City

The Standard, Canada/August 6, 2007

A controversial religious figure who some call a dangerous cult leader while others call Lord spent two days in St. Catharines over the weekend to nurture his Canadian flock.

Jose Luis De Jesus Miranda, 61, addressed about 100 people jammed into the Merlot Room at Quality Hotel Parkway Convention Centre on Ontario Street Saturday afternoon.

The Niagara Memorial Militaires Drum Corps, who was hired and is not associated with the group, played jubilant marching band music while followers held 666 flags as part of De Jesus Miranda's grand entrance procession.

The self-proclaimed Anti-Christ's followers, who believe he is the second coming of Jesus Christ, sang his praises and danced with feverish joy.

"He is God on Earth, governing the nation," they sang in their native Spanish tongue.

De Jesus Miranda, a Puerto Rico native, has created a religious empire around the globe through his contentious religious teachings, which espouses there is no devil and no sin.

The ministry claims thousands of followers in 33 countries, mostly in Latin America.

A preacher who lives in Miami, De Jesus Miranda has been criticized for claiming divinity. Some religious experts have called him a dangerous cult leader.

"We want the whole world to know God is here," said De Jesus Miranda's media relations agent Debbie Betancourt, wearing a stylish trenchcoat emblazoned with 666 in gold thread.

"The second coming of Christ has occurred," said the Miami resident.

De Jesus Miranda has his own satellite television, which is broadcast in 16 countries.

His Growing in Grace church, which he founded in 1986, holds a congress every year in different locations in the Americas.

The two-day Garden City conference attracted people from throughout Canada and the U.S.

Last March, 19 local followers in St. Catharines had the number 666 tattooed to their skin to identify themselves as De Jesus Miranda's followers.

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