LIFESTYLE

Folk saints gain popularity in Pope Francis' native Argentina
Gauchito Gil and San La Muerte are just two of many folk saints not recognized by the Roman Catholic Church but which are flourishing in Argentina, the homeland of the current pope.
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In this Nov. 8, 2014 photo, a follower of popular folk saint Gauchito Gil reaches to touch a cross on the anniversary of his death at a sanctuary in his honor in Alejandro Korn, Argentina. Antonio Mamerto Gil Nunez was executed on Jan. 8, 1878, after which people began attributing miracles to him. The legendary character has thousands of followers and altars erected in his name, especially in slums and along the nation's roadsides. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

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In this Nov. 8, 2014 photo, followers of popular folk saint Gauchito Gil, some dressed like him, gather at a sanctuary built in his honor on the anniversary of his death in Alejandro Korn, Argentina. This sanctuary was built by Ruben Alfaro, who believes Gil cured him of colon cancer. To give thanks, he built this sanctuary where pilgrims come every eighth of the month to pay him tribute. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

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In this Oct. 8, 2014 photo, a figure of San La Muerte sits at a homemade sanctuary in the La Carcova slum on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Legend has it that San La Muerte was a man who helped lepers in jail and was found dead standing in a black robe leaning on a scythe. Today he's popular among prisoners. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

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In this Sunday, Sept. 7, 2014 photo, a follower of Argentina's late singer Gilda places burning candles at her sanctuary as she marks the anniversary of Gilda's death in Entre Rios, Argentina. Although the Catholic church doesn't recognize Gilda as a saint, many Argentine Catholics pray to Gilda, a popular Cumbia singer who died in a 1996 bus crash, because according to them, she quickly fulfills their prayers. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

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In this Nov. 8, 2014 followers of Gauchito Gil, dressed as South American cowboys, dance at a sanctuary built in gratitude for his miracles on the anniversary of his death in Alejandro Korn, Argentina. Gauchito Gil was an 1800's outlaw who became a symbol of bravery. Born Antonio Mamerto Gil Nunez, he was executed on Jan. 8, 1878 and is the most popular of Argentinas folks saints. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

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In this Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014 photo, Flavia Piana holds a cake she made as she sings happy birthday to the late Argentine singer Gilda where the singer is buried at the Chacarita cemetery on what would have been Gilda's birthday in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Cumbia singer Miriam Alejandra Bianchi was born in 1961, and her stage name Gilda was in tribute to Rita Hayworth. She became one of Argentinas most popular folk saints after she was killed in a bus accident when she was just 35. People gather at her tomb to honor her and thank for her miracles. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

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In this Oct. 8, 2014 photo, a woman sits inside a home decorated with images of San La Muerte, right, and Gauchito Gil, left, in the Carcova slum on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, Argentina. According to local legend, San La Muerte was a real-life man who died in prison helping lepers, and his body was found as a skeleton. Gil was a real man who was executed as an outlaw in 1878. Both are most popular characters among the lower economic class who pray to them for miracles. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

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In this Sept. 7, 2014 photo, keychains of Argentina's late singer Gilda hang from a picture of Jesus Christ inside a sanctuary at the site where she died in a bus crash on the anniversary of her death in Entre Rios, Argentina. After the Argentine singer died at age 35 in a tragic road accident, her fans began attributing miracles to her, and gathering here on her birthday and the anniversary of her death to pray and thank her. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

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In this Oct. 8, 2014 photo, Carlos Marquez shows his pendants of San La Muerte, right, and Gauchito Gil at his home in the Carcova slum on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Marquez said he grew up following Gauchito Gil, who he considers the folk saint of the poor and needy, referring to both material and spiritual poverty. His devotion to San La Muerte began in prison, where he served 15 years for armed robbery. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

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In this Sept. 29, 2014 photo, a Gauchito Gil statue sits behind glass on an altar outside a train station in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Altars of this legendary character have been erected by his followers across the country. Although not recognized by the Catholic church, most of Gil's devotees consider themselves Catholic. Shrines to the long-haired, mustachioed gaucho thief, are erected across the country, especially in poor neighborhoods. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

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In this Nov. 8, 2014 photo, people dressed as South American cowboys dance at a sanctuary built in honor of Gauchito Gil on the anniversary of his death in Alejandro Korn, Argentina. On every 8th of the month, followers of Gil pay tribute to him, leaving offerings at roadside altars and ask for him to answer their prayers. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

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In this Nov. 8, 2014 photo, a woman leans on a statue of popular folk saint Gauchito Gil at a sanctuary built in his honor by people who attribute miracles to him, on the anniversary of his death in Alejandro Korn, Argentina. Gauchito Gil was an 1800's outlaw who has become a symbol of bravery, stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. He was born Antonio Mamerto Gil Nunez in the 1840's, and executed on Jan. 8, 1878. People build altars in his name across the nation where on every 8th of the month, they gather to pay him tribute. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

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In this Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014 photo, people face the crypt of Argentina's late Cumbia singer Gilda on what would have been her birthday at the Chacarita cemetery in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Gilda, whose real name was Miriam Alejandra Bianchi, has blossomed into one of Argentina's most popular unofficial saints when fans started attributing miracles to her. Born in 1961, she died in a bus accident in 1996, along with her family and band members. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

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In this Oct. 30, 2014 photo, a figure of Pope Francis, center, Gauchito Gil, left, and San La Muerte, right, sit for sale among other religious figures in a slum in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Gauchito Gil and San La Muerte are just two of many folk saints, not recognized by the Roman Catholic Church, which are flourishing in Argentina, the homeland of Pope Francis. The phenomenon is not new, but experts say it surged after the South American countrys 2001 financial crisis which caused poverty rates to soar and people to seek out popular religiosity. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

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In this Oct. 8, 2014 photo, Carlos Marquez sits in front of his altar in honor of San La Muerte at his home in the La Carcova slum on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Marquez says his devotion to San La Muerte began in prison, where he served 15 years for armed robbery. He built the altar in thanks for being alive, and says many youth in his neighborhood with drug problems and criminal pasts pray at his alter. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

Folk saints gain popularity in Pope Francis' native Argentina

Gauchito Gil and San La Muerte are just two of many folk saints not recognized by the Roman Catholic Church but which are flourishing in Argentina, the homeland of the current pope.

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