BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) – An annual pilgrimage to a Roman Catholic shrine to the patron saint of work in Argentina drew thousands of people Thursday amid uncertain economic times in the country.
The line of faithful to attend Mass and give thanks at the Church of San Cayetano in the capital Buenos Aires stretched for several blocks.
Saint Cayetano, an Italian priest who died in the 16th century, is revered as the patron saint of wheat, prosperity and labor, and his name day resonates in a country that has undergone economic turmoil in recent years, most recently a default forced by a legal dispute with U.S. investors.
Known in English as St. Cajetan, San Cayetano died in Naples in 1547. Among his works was the founding of a bank to help the poor and offer an alternative to loan sharks.
"When we have been going through complicated situations with a lot of economic adjustment ... God and the saint gives refuge to the people, offers them hope," said Jorge Torres, a priest in the parish.
Many of the thousands of people visiting the shrine clutched stalks of wheat or carried pictures of Pope Francis, who is from Argentina and has presided over Mass on San Cayetano day in the past. People use the occasion to pray for a good job for themselves or a family member or to give thanks for one.
Argentina is in recession and has one of the world's highest rates of inflation. Analysts have warned that the default triggered July 30 by the dispute with U.S. investors could further hurt the economy, among the largest in Latin America.