By Nancy Wilstach, The Birmingham News, Birmingham, Alabama, 12/28/04
Former residents and parents of residents accuse the Shelby County, Alabama, Caritas of Birmingham community, led by Terry Colafrancesco, of fraud, misrepresentation, undue influence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and false imprisonment. They say Colafrancesco lures devout Catholics to Caritas and then takes all their money. A judge has ordered principals in the three-year-old suit to submit to mediation.
Colafrancesco created Caritas following the 1988 vision of a woman from Bossnia-Herzegovina who reported experiencing visitations from the Virgin Mary while standing in Colafrancesco’s pasture. She continues to have visions during her periodic returns to the US, and her most recent visit drew thousands of pilgrims. The community draws its membership from such people, who give up their property when they move into Caritas. The community also receives donations from the devout around the world. Caritas, which the Roman Catholic Church does not recognize, operates a school, sawmill, gift shop, and farm.
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