Brazil 'miracle' healer, profiled by Oprah, to face rape trial

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - A self-proclaimed Brazilian faith healer, who became a celebrity after appearing on a show hosted by Oprah Winfrey, will face trial on allegations of rape and sexual abuse, a judge ruled on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: Brazilian spiritual healer Joao Teixeira de Faria, known as "John of God", arrives at a police station a day after being officially ruled a fugitive, in Goiania, Brazil Dec. 16, 2018. REUTERS/Metropoles/Igo Estrela/File Photo

João Teixeira de Faria, known as “John of God,” was arrested in December, and faces accusations from dozens of women, who allege he sexually abused them while they were seeking spiritual guidance and treatment.

On Wednesday, Rosângela Rodrigues dos Santos, a judge in Abadiânia, the small town in central Brazil where Faria’s spiritual center is located, accepted the charges brought against him by four women, and said he must face trial.

Prosecutors allege that Faria raped two of the women, and used fraudulent means to sexually abuse the other two.

Faria, who became internationally famous when Winfrey broadcast a report on his psychic healing methods in 2013, has said he is innocent, and denied the accusations.

The first accusation was made on a TV Globo program in December by Dutch choreographer Zahira Maus, who said Faria sexually assaulted her. Globo TV spent three months investigating the story and interviewed a dozen other women who said they had been abused by the healer.

Faria’s fame has been boosted by supposedly miraculous surgeries he claims to have performed with his hands and without anesthesia.

Winfrey said in a statement that she visited Faria’s center in 2012 to explore his controversial healing methods for an episode of “Oprah’s Next Chapter” that aired the following year, she said.

“I empathize with the women now coming forward and hope justice is served,” she said.

Prosecutors are still investigating other allegations against Faria, which could see the list of accusers grow. His lawyer, Alberto Zacharias Toron, said his client had not yet been notified of the court’s decision.

“We’re calm and believe justice will be served,” he said.

Reporting by Eduardo Simoes; editing by Jonathan Oatis