ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The skeleton folk saint known as La Santa Muerte will likely continue to grow in New Mexico and other U.S. states despite a Vatican official recently calling the saint a blasphemous symbol, according to experts.

In fact, La Santa Muerte’s popularity likely will keep gaining in the United States and might even get more popular after the Vatican official’s comment, said Andrew Chesnut, author of “Devoted to Death: Santa Muerte, the Skeleton Saint” and the Bishop Walter F. Sullivan Chair in Catholic Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University.

“I think the comments might give law enforcement in the U.S. more probable cause for investigations,” said Chesnut. “But the comments by the Vatican might actually have the reverse effect they were seeking.”

Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, the Vatican’s culture minister, said this week in Mexico City that Mexico’s folk Death Saint is a blasphemous symbol that shouldn’t be part of any religion.

La Santa Muerte is a skeletal figure of a cloaked woman with a scythe in her bony hand. The folk saint is worshipped by drug traffickers in Mexico and by the terrified people who live in drug-torn neighborhoods.

The skeleton figure also in recent years has found a robust and diverse following north of the border among immigrants, artists, gay activists and the poor.

Kiko Torres, owner of Masks y Mas, an art shop in Albuquerque, said materials related to the folk saint continue to sell out in his store.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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