Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi says worshipping such an icon is a degeneration of religion.In his book, El Narco--Inside Mexico's Criminal Insurgency, Ioan Grillo devotes an entire chapter to discussing the strange interaction and mingling of faith and the drug war. For instance, he writes:
"It's not religion just because it's dressed up like religion; it's a blasphemy against religion", Cardinal Ravasi said.
The Santa Muerte is a skeletal figure of a cloaked woman with a scythe in her bony hand. It is worshipped both by drug dealers in Mexico and by the terrified people who live in drug-torn neighbourhoods.
The most virulent expression of narco religion is by La Familia Cartel in Michoacan. La Familia indoctrinates its followers in its own version of evangelical Christianity mixed with some peasant rebel politics. The gang's spiratual leader, Nazario Moreno, "El Mas Loco," or the Maddest One, actually wrote his own bible, which is compulsory reading for the troops. ...Grillo is careful to note that not all believers of these cults are narcos, but that "gangsters definitely feel at home in these new sects and exert a powerful influence on them.... Kingpins now fight for souls as well as turf."
But La Familia is only the most defined voice in a chorus of narco religion that has been rising in volume for decades. Other tones of the choir include some morphed rituals of Caribean Santeria, the folk saint Jesus Malverde, and the wildly popular Santa Muerte, or Holy Death.
Writing about Santa Muerte, Grillo says:
Her rise in popularity has been meteoric. Within a decade, Santa Muerte shot from an obscure symbol only a few people had seen to being in almost every city and neighborhood in Mexico, across Mexican communities in the United States, down in South America, and as far away as Spain and Australia. But the heart of her faith is in Tepito, in the center of Mexico City.One Santa Muerte religious leader, David Romo, claims 2 million faithful, and to be setting up affiliated churches throughout Mexico and the United States.