GEORGETOWN, Guyana – The historic Catholic church once used by American cult leader and mass murderer Jim Jones will reopen for worship next month, nearly 11 years after being devastated by fire.
Indiana-born Jones used the Sacred Heart Church to launch his Peoples Temple cult in Guyana but the group was subsequently barred from the building after Catholic Church officials discovered chicken blood and parts were being used there in so-called healing services.
In 1974, Jones relocated to the privacy of the jungle, having paid US$1 million for 27, 000 acres of land near Port Kaituma.
There he founded the infamous Jonestown commune, funded by the life savings of about 900 of his mostly American followers, who soon found themselves virtually imprisoned and enslaved under his twisted, tyrannical rule.
It was claimed that the bisexual Jones sexually abused his flock; forced them to undertake gruelling manual labour in appalling conditions; disciplined them by means of humiliating rituals, and made escape virtually impossible.
Word of the torment endured at Jonestown eventually found its way back to the U.S., where Congressman Leo Ryan decided to investigate the Peoples Temple’s settlement in Guyana.
Ryan and several members of his entourage were shot dead during the 1978 trip, while over 900 members of the cult were forced to drink a deadly cocktail of cyanide-laced Kool-Aid. The body of Jones was found with a bullet through the head.
Meanwhile, the Sacred Heart Church, where Jones had first gained a foothold in Guyana, was later destroyed in an electrical fire.
Catholic Bishop Francis Alleyne said the rebuilt church will reopen next month after a US$600,000 investment. It was originally built by Portuguese settlers in 1861.
According to the Catholic Standard, Sacred Heart Catholic community will officially and permanently occupy the rebuilt facilities on Main Street.