Medium killed, tomb desecrated in latest Brazil attacks

RIO DE JANEIRO - A well-known medium popular with the stars was killed and the tomb of another was desecrated Friday in the latest wave of violence targeting spiritualists in several days in Brazil, police said.

Police are investigating after the body of Gilberto Arruda, 73, was found with his hands bound and his face swollen at the "Lar de Frei Luiz" spiritual centre in Jacarepagua, a district of western Rio.

Arruda practiced "spiritual surgery," local media said, and claimed to be able to receive the spirit of a World War II German doctor.

Former Brazilian tennis champion Gustavo Kuerten reportedly had attended the centre and undergone a "spiritual operation" of the spine in the past.

Separately, the tomb of popular medium Chico Xavier was desecrated in Uberaba, in Minas Gerais state, between Thursday and Friday.

The glass walls of the tomb - which receives thousands of visits annually from believers - were damaged in several places, police said.

Chico Xavier, who died aged 92 in 2002, was recommended by Brazil in 1981 for a Nobel Peace Prize, underlining how deeply respected he is in the country.

There has been a wave of similar incidents in recent days, especially in Rio de Janeiro.

Evangelicals have been blamed for the violence.

On Sunday, an 11-year-old girl who was a follower of Candomble, a religion based on African beliefs, was attacked with stones in front of her place of worship by evangelicals in Rio.

On Thursday a "spiritualist" centre was pelted with stones by three men brandishing Bibles.

"When we see signs of religious intolerance in our city it is very worrying," said the Archbishop of Rio, Orani Tempesta.

"I am sure that these attackers are a minority, they are not Christians."