Cerullo offers the 'cured' for inspection: Mary Braid reports on the American evangelist's claim of success for his Mission to London

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The Independent Online
The miraculously 'cured' were presented for inspection yesterday by Morris Cerullo, the American television evangelist and star of last month's controversial Mission to London.

More than 700 people claimed to be cured after the week-long mission. The eight adults and children assembled by the Cerullo machine were those whose healings 'had withstood the test of time'. Before their testimony Mr Cerullo, in rasping voice, cleared a few things up.

First, the familiar disclaimer and Mr Cerullo's disconcerting tendency to refer to himself in the third person. 'Morris Cerullo is not a faith-healer. He is a minister of the gospel.' So God, not Mr Cerullo, cures. There followed a few Amens from the healed and their relatives, sitting across the aisle from a 'cynical' press.

Mr Cerullo, small, dapper and salesmanlike, then apologised to disabled people who were offended by the advertisements for the London mission. They featured overturned wheelchairs with promises that some would be moved by the power of God for the first time. But he refused to take responsibility for the death of Audrey Reynolds, a 25-year- old epileptic from Clapham, south- west London, who died six days after attending a Cerullo meeting. Mr Cerullo criticised the conclusion of Sir Montague Levine, the Southwark coroner, that she died because she thought she was cured and stopped taking medication. Mr Cerullo said the mother of Ms Reynolds was not convinced that attending the meeting caused her daughter's death.

Yesterday's proof of successful healings was far from conclusive. Mr Cerullo is co-operating with BBC 1's Heart of the Matter in an investigation of alleged healings, but he accused the programme of 'strong bias' in an initial report on the Mission to London and confessed he 'felt a little bit betrayed'. Some of the 'cured' have surrendered medical records to Heart of the Matter.

Edna Merryman, 58, from Birmingham, claimed she was cured of epilepsy after attending a Cerullo mission 18 months ago. Later her home was 'filled by the Holy Spirit' which has been with her on and off for eight years.

'The first time it happened was in 1984 when Mr Cerullo was teaching at another school of ministry. I was told by the Holy Spirit to get a single room although I could not afford one. After lectures finished I went to my room. The presence of the Holy Spirit filled it. There was electricity running down my arms right to my fingers and right down my legs to my toes. It went on for two hours.' Mrs Merryman, a member of a small evangelical church, 'fell deeply in love with Jesus of Nazareth' in her early thirties. She has spoken in tongues and had religious visions. She said that the Holy Spirit 'is a small voice at the back of your head', easily distinguishable from her own thoughts. Her epilepsy lasted only a matter of months.

Sheila Lambshead, 45, from Burnley, Lancashire, suffered 15 years of back pain until she was persuaded to attend a Cerullo night two years ago. She claimed she was filled with the spirit during a healing session and has had no back pain since. X-rays have shown that her discs are still out. Mr Cerullo said he had sacrificed his life for his healing ministry. But that was not going unnoticed. Maureen Dawes, from Walsall, West Midlands, who claimed that Mr Cerullo had helped heal a cyst on her face, said she had been in communication with God that morning. 'He said, 'Dr Cerullo is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased'. '

The evangelist attributed other criticism to prejudice. Evangelism was 'in its infancy in Britain'. As for concerns about the financial side of the Cerullo experience, he said: 'Giving is a great part of our worship.' It was no bad thing to surrender your pocket-book to God.

(Photograph omitted)