Devotees of a death cult, who are fighting for recognition as a religion, participate in a protest in Mexico City yesterday.
MEXICO CITY – Hundreds of Mexican devotees of Saint Death – a quasi-Catholic faith that worships the skeletal figure of death – marched through downtown Mexico City yesterday to demand respect for their religion and its followers.
Holding banners reading “Respect Religious Freedom” and “We are not criminals or drug addicts,” marchers drawn from some of the city’s roughest barrios carried statues of the elegantly clad Grim Reaper down the city’s main boulevard.
The march was called in response to an investigation launched last month by Mexico’s Interior Department into complaints that the church falsely registered itself as an offshoot of Roman Catholicism, which neither recognizes nor approves of the death cult.
While some anger was directed at the government, which has not decided whether to sanction the group, there was resentment at the Catholic Church and society for looking down at death worshippers.
“In many parishes, they say our people are all drug addicts or criminals,” said Juan Manuel Cortes, 27, who officiates Masses at the main Mexico City death shrine in a crime-ridden section of the old downtown. “That’s not true, but we also don’t close our doors to anybody.”
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Many of the faithful recounted miracles that Saint Death – depicted as a smiling female skeleton known as our “Our Little White Girl,” the right-hand servant of God – had performed for them.
The group registered as a religious group in 2003 under the name The Mexico-US Tridentine Church, a move that allowed it to legally raise money and own property.
The government said it was considering withdrawing official recognition of the church after an excommunicated member accused the cult of forcing members to worship death and failing to stick to its bylaws.
If recognition is withdrawn, the religion could continue but would lose money-raising and other privileges.