'Saint Death' Drawing Millions of Devotees in Mexico, U.S. Despite Condemnation from Vatican

Devotees praying to Santa Muerte in Mexico.(Wikipedia)

This "saint" is no saint. In fact, the skeletal female figure represents the devil. And yet millions of people still idolise it, to the chagrin of the Roman Catholic Church.

Called Santa Muerte ("Holy Death" or "Saint Death"), the figure has been drawing millions of devotees in Mexico, Central America, and some places in the United States, the Catholic News Agency (CNA) reported.

There is no such saint in the Roman Catholic Church. In fact, in 2013, a Vatican official condemned the devotion to the idol, equating it to "the celebration of devastation and of hell."

Fr. Gary Thomas, a Vatican-trained exorcist for the Diocese of San Jose, California denounced the honouring of a saint of death, which he said is a corruption and distortion of what Christians belief about Jesus, who came to give us eternal life.

"'Saint Death' is an oxymoron. God is a God of the living, not the dead," the exorcist priest added.

It would seem fitting that Santa Muerte is considered a saint among criminals, drug lords in particular.

"She's basically the poster girl of narco-satanic spirituality," Andrew Chesnut, a Santa Muerte expert who has been studying the devotion for eight years, told CNA.

Chesnut estimates that Santa Muerte has some 10 to 12 million devotees, mostly in Mexico, but also in the United States and Central America.

What's drawing this large number of people to the saint of death?

Fr. Andres Gutierrez, the pastor of St. Helen parish in Rio Hondo, Texas, said the deity is seen as a non-judgmental "saint" that can be invoked for evil intentions.

"If somebody is going to be doing something illegal, and they want to be protected from the law enforcement, they feel awkward asking God to protect them," Fr. Gutierrez said. "So they promise something to Santa Muerte in exchange for being protected from the law."

Devotees also seek favours of vengeance—something they would never ask of God or a canonised saint, Chesnut said.