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Among the world's emerging messiahs is lapsed-Catholic Jose de Jesus Miranda, 60, of Houston (who has ministries in as many as 30 countries), whose message includes drinking ("Jesus (Christ) drank wine because he didn't have Dewar's (scotch)"), smoking, rejection of the concepts of sin and hell, and condemnation of Catholicism and the pope (according to a March report from ABC News). Though El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras recently banned him, he is said to have tens of thousands of followers, many of whom joyfully have themselves tattooed with "666" to honor Miranda's self-description as an antichrist.

A professional burglar was arrested in the village of Klevan, Ukraine, in February (according to a report from the German news agency DPA) after he broke into a church to steal gold fixtures, fell asleep, got locked in the weekends-only facility for five days, and survived on the only liquid available: sacramental wine.

A senior Italian member of the Catholic organization Opus Dei, Ms. Paola Binetti, told a television interviewer in March that she often wraps a spiked chain around her upper thigh for two hours a day as punishment for her sins. Said a prominent Catholic writer (interviewed in London's Daily Telegraph), "The world is full of people who, thanks to God, freely choose their own type of suffering." Wrote the Opus Dei founder: "Blessed be pain. Loved be pain. Sanctified be pain ... glorified be pain!"

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