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MADGE LOSES HER RELIGION; She turns back on Kabbalah for Opus Dei.

Byline: CLEMMIE MOODIE

FOR the past 15 years, she has been Kabbalah's most high profile and dedicated follower.

But now Madonna has apparently ditched the controversial faith, dramatically taking up with Opus Dei - the secretive Catholic sect made famous in The Da Vinci Code.

Returning to her Catholic roots, the singer is said to be "intrigued" by the divisive off-shoot of the church, spending Friday with priests from the centre's London HQ.

Some devotees of the ultra-conservative branch of Catholicism follow the extreme practice of "mortification" - wearing a painful barbed-wire band called a cilice around their thigh.

The move follows her falling-out with Kabbalah leaders after reports money raised for her Malawi charity was squandered.

Last night a source said: "Madonna has invested so much into Kabbalah, so naturally she was devastated by these damning accusations. She has always stood by the faith, no matter what, but this latest development may prove too much.

"She is ready to move on and express her beliefs in other ways and has started exploring different religions."

The source added: "Madonna has never been one for sticking to convention and has always been intrigued by Opus Dei. Asyet,she isnota fully paid-up member of Opus Dei, she has had a few informal conversations."

It is not known yet whether the veteran star, 51, has formally quit Kabbalah.

After joining in 1996 during her pregnancy with Lourdes, she quickly became one of the faith's most disciplined devotees.

Wearing its trademark red bracelet to "ward off evil spirits", she has donated millions of pounds to the organisation.

Taking up the Hebrew name Esther, her devotion to Kabbalah was said to be one of the factors in her split from hubby Guy Ritchie.

Two weeks ago a report emerged claiming Madonna's Kabbalahbacked charity, Raising Malawi, had squandered millions. The charity, created to help develop one of the world's poorest nations, allegedly only spent EUR589,137 of EUR2.3million raised to fund a new school in Malawi. The rest was reportedly spent in Los Angeles, at the Kabbalah Centre's plush offices. It is now being investigated by the FBI.

On Friday, Madonna spent around 90 minutes with officials at the Opus Dei centre in Orme Court before returning to her North West London home. Last night her official spokesman refused to comment.

WHAT IS OPUS DEI? OPUS Dei is an organisation of the Catholic Church, known formally as The Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei.

It received international attention in Dan Brown's bestselling novel The Da Vinci Code, the organisation is portrayed as a murderous secret society whose crimes include concealing the truth about the Holy Grail. Leaders blasted his book as a "a work of fiction and not a reliable source of information on these matters".

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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 11, 2011
Words:482
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