An assailant stabbed a Brazilian celebrity priest in a bloody attack during a televised mass, witnesses said Monday.
Evangelical pastor Vlademiro Santiago, 53, was left clutching his bleeding neck after the attack at a church in Sao Paulo on Sunday morning.
One of the congregants stabbed him in the back and the neck with a knife as the priest reached out to perform a ritual laying-on of hands.
“The pastor kindly leaned down to embrace a young man, who took out a knife and stabbed him in the throat,” one witness, Bishop Jorge Pinheiro, told AFP.
Santiago was given 25 stitches in hospital and discharged after a few hours.
In a video message released after the attack he said: “May God bless and forgive the person who did this.”
A police source told AFP that security guards overpowered the attacker, a 20-year-old man.
“We are in shock,” said Pinheiro.
“We could never have imagined that such a thing could happen in a church -- to see the pastor holding his neck with blood flowing from it.”
Police made no comment on the possible motive for the attack. Local media said the man was unstable and had been upset by something the pastor had said during a previous church service.
Santiago is a former member of the influential Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (IURD).
He broke away from it in 1998 and has built his own congregation with a network of some 4,500 churches across Brazil.
In his services, often broadcast live on television, he is known for claiming miracles such as healing cancer patients and restoring sight to the blind.