At least nine people were killed and more than 100 injured when the roof of Brazilian megachurch Reborn in Christ Church collapsed Sunday evening. The downtown Sao Paulo church, which is one of the largest congregations in the country, had held a youth service less than an hour earlier attended by hundreds of churchgoers, yet most had left the building. Another service for adults was scheduled to begin minutes later.
Authorities said it could take weeks to determine why the church’s concrete roof suddenly gave way. In 1999 the church was temporarily shut down because of a termite problem in the rafters, but church leaders said the building was entirely up to code. “It’s premature to start laying blame,” said Ronaldo Marzagao, Sao Paulo’s public security secretary.
Reborn in Christ Church began as a church held in the back of a pizza parlor in 1986 and is now the hub of a worldwide evangelical movement that claims nearly 2 million members, 1,200 satellite churches and several high-profile supporters—including Brazilian soccer star Kaka, who was married in the same building in 2005. The church hasn’t been without controversy, however, as its founders, Estevam and Sonia Hernandes, are currently on probation in Florida after pleading guilty in 2007 to smuggling $56,000 into the United States in their luggage. [AP, 1/19/09; Reuters, 1/19/09]