Jose Augusto dos Santos, the priest of the temple, was arrested and charged with concealing a cadaver, a policewoman said by telephone from Cuiaba, 1,000 miles northwest of Rio. She declined to give her name on grounds that only the homicide police chief could speak on the record, and he was at the temple. Police were investigating the disappearance of local druggist Romualdo Pereira Barbosa in 1995, and an anonymous phone call led them to the temple on the outskirts of the city, the policewoman said.
The skulls and bones were concealed under part of the floor, and firefighters were called in Tuesday to tear up the rest of it, she said.
Brazilian media reported that police also found jewels and three packages with what appeared to be human brains. Dos Santos reportedly told police the bones were supplied by a grave robber and were used in religious rituals.
Animist religions originated in Africa and were brought to Brazil by slaves. Over the years, some sects have incorporated elements of other beliefs, including Roman Catholicism and witchcraft.