'John of God': Investigating a Brazilian Faith Healer

An ABCNews correspondent discusses the medical and religious mysteries behind 'John of God.'

BY: Interview with John Quinones

On Thursday, February 10, at 10 p.m. ET, ABC's "Primetime Live" will air John of God, a special report on a Brazilian man who may be the world's most popular faith healer. Thousands have flocked to him when Western medical treatments have failed them. "Primetime Live" co-anchor John Quiñones traveled to Brazil to find out whether their incredible stories can be true. He spoke with Beliefnet about his findings.

Who is John of God?

He's a Brazilian from a very poor, modest family. At the age of 16, he learned that he had healing powers--or at least he said that people witnessed that he could, by laying on of hands, cure people of all kinds of ailments. So he started doing good for the world, he said, at that age. He says he's a simple farmer who just has this ability to cure. And he's been doing this for 45 years.

About how many people travel to him each year?

It's got to be tens of thousands of people. He sees them three days a week and every day we were there there were 500-600 people on line.

Are the people who come mainly from Brazil and other parts of South America?

They're from all over. Many Americans, Europeans, Asians, people from New Zealand. I met a women from South Africa. I think he arguably may be the most popular healer in the world.

What religion does John of God belong to or preach?

Not any one in particular. He incorporates all religions. He says that it's not just Catholicism, although much of Brazil is. It's not just about Catholics, it's about anyone who believes in a higher power. There are pictures of Christ and Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist symbols.

Does he have any sort of medical training?

No, not at all. He'll admit to it. I sat down with him in an interview and he said, "I'm just a simple farmer who when I look at a person and somebody is ailing, the spirits come to me and incorporate my body. They're the ones that instruct my hands to do whatever they need to do to cure someone. I can't stand the sight of blood, myself. I can't take a flu shot."

And, in fact, we showed him video of what he had done and he didn't even want to look at the screen. He said, "That's not me." And I said, "How could it not be you? We just saw you do this. Cutting into people, inserting forceps in their noses."

He said, "No, it's not me. It's God. It's God using me as an instrument." Or these entities--any number of [ghosts], including King Solomon believe it or not, who he says can, at any given day or any given time, instruct him what to do.

We went there with a healthy dose of skepticism, certainly not believing that any man can do this sort of thing. But there's something about the prayer, the faith, the overwhelming sense of calm at that place called La Casa, house, that somehow contributes to some sort of healing.

He does admit that he can't cure everyone. Not everyone who comes to him is liable to be cured. He doesn't make any false claims. He asks people not to stop taking their medication when they come to see him or to stop treatments like chemotherapy. And anyone who's very sick, he doesn't want them traveling down to Brazil because he may not be able to help them. He says that some people are ready spiritually and others are not.

You also say that John of God performs "invisible" surgeries. How many of his surgeries are visible--done with instruments like scalpels-- and how many are invisible faith-type healings?

Most of the surgeries are invisible. I'd say 95 percent.

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