More and more people are following a strange devotion to an entity, known as Santa Muerte. Every day people and drug traffickers are praying for guidance and protection. But as with any cult, fad or trend, it's not without opposition.
Along with their believers, there are also those who are strongly against devotion to Santa Muerte. In fact, they are denouncing the practice, their followers and everything associated with it.
According to Bishop Michael Pfeifer, Diocese of San Angelo, "Those who promote the Santa Muerte are trying to pass this off as another type or another form of devotion or religion. It's blasphemy against God."
The Catholic Church is speaking out against the blatant worship and adoration of Santa Muerte.
The Bishop says, "I need to point out, to the people that falsely think this is another type of devotion, a Christian devotion, especially a Catholic devotion, that it's in no way a true religion. It celebrates the devil."
Bishop Pfeifer is familiar with Santa Muerte or Holy Death and the following this would be "saint" is gaining. He first encountered Santa Muerte while as a missionary priest in Mexico. He's very concerned over her recent emergence in, not only the United States, but also in West Texas.
"There are stores, major stores that sell candles, in honor of Santa Muerte. I received a call from an officer at a detention center in Lubbock, Texas. He was very concerned over the inmates there, having a devotion to Santa Muerte, even having prayers and wanted information on this type of diabolical worship," Pfeifer said.
An increase in popularity and followers witnessed by U.S. Marshal, Robert Almonte, who added, "I've seen different factions, different so-called leaders in the U.S. I've seen where different people put their own spin on how they worship Santa Muerte. Their own beliefs on what she does, on who she is."
Worshippers of Santa Muerte go as far as dressing her to look like the Virgin Mary or Virgin de Guadalupe. They've also gone as far as praying rosaries, offering mass and even venerating her in traditional catholic holidays.
Bishop Pfeifer defines it as, "a deception, the way they dress up this Santa Muerte, making it similar, in some ways, to Mary, the Mother of Jesus."
Pfeifer says the Catholic Church denounces what Santa Muertistas, or followers of Santa Muerte, are referring to and treating like a religion.
"This would become the patron saint, with a quotation mark, patron saint of drug traffickers and they use it as a religion, a false religion," Pfeifer said.
Almonte added, "To me, a religion is something you can identify where it came from, the history and the different leaders through history. With Santa Muerte, you cannot, I've not been able to do that and I really don't believe anyone can do that."
While the drug traffickers are turning to Santa Muerte for protection and guidance, law enforcement is turning to the church.
"There's a federal judge, right here in West Texas, I've spoken to him about it. He's mentioned that in the case or cases he's dealing with, it's getting mentioned more," Pfeifer said.
Again, it's important to point out, not everyone who worships Santa Muerte is automatically assumed to be involved in criminal activity. Either way, the church has a strong warning against it.
"It's not the same in the Holy way we understand saints, it's all geared to death. It's all geared to destruction and it's all geared to giving devotion to the devil," Pfeifer said.