A Vatican spokesman has declared Mexico’s folk Death Saint (Santa Meurte) is “blasphemous” and should not be part of any religion.

Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi said worship of the skeletal figure of a cloaked woman carrying a scythe was a degeneration of religion, the Associated Press reported.

It is a particularly popular symbol in areas of Mexico among drug dealers, as well as those who have suffered extreme violence at the hands of cartels.

santa muerte

Santa Muerte is the skeletal figure of a cloaked woman, carrying a scythe

Cardinal Ravasi was speaking at a series of events for believers and non-believers on Wednesday, known as the Courtyard of Gentiles, a project started by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009.

He said, the BBC reports: “Religion celebrates life, but here you have death.

“It’s not religion just because it’s dressed up like religion; it’s blasphemous against religion.”

Worship of Santa Meurte is said to soothe a variety of ills, including fending off wrongdoing, carrying out vengeance and stopping lovers from cheating.

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  • FILE - In this Feb. 13, 2013 file photo, statues of La Santa Muerte are shown at the Masks y Mas art store in Albuquerque, N.M. As “Breaking Bad” finishes filming its fifth and final season in Albuquerque, the popularity of the show is providing a boost to the economy and creating a dilemma for local tourism officials as they walk the fine line of profiting from a show that centers around drug trafficking, addiction and violence. The store provided the statues used in the chilling opening scene of the show’s third season, in which a pair of cartel assassins crawl to the saint’s shrine in Mexico to request some divine help. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras, File)

  • Devotees hold aloft their figures of Santa Muerte (Saint of Death) before the central altar asking for favors during the main celebration in the market of one of the most dangerous neighborhoods, known as Tepito in Mexico City, on November 1, 2012. Santa Muerte is an occult figure venerated primarily in Mexico and the United States, probably a syncretism between Mesoamerican and Catholic beliefs, although strongly condemned by the Catholic Church as Satanic. (YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A devotee of Santa Muerte (Saint of Death) lights candles at an altar during the main celebration in the market of one of the most dangerous neighborhoods, known as Tepito in Mexico City, on November 1, 2012. Santa Muerte is an occult figure venerated primarily in Mexico and the United States, probably a syncretism between Mesoamerican and Catholic beliefs, although strongly condemned by the Catholic Church as Satanic. (YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A devotee of the Santa Muerte (Saint of Death) blows smoke on an effigy during the main celebration at the marketof one of the most dangerous neighborhoods, known as Tepito in Mexico City, on November 1, 2012. Santa Muerte is an occult figure venerated primarily in Mexico and the United States, probably a syncretism between Mesoamerican and Catholic beliefs, although strongly condemned by the Catholic Church as Satanic. (YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A devotee of the 'Santa Muerte' (Holy Death) holds a image as she prays at the shrine of the goddess at the Iztapalapa shantytown in Mexico City, on February 4, 2011. The cult of this pseudo-religious skeletal image, also known as 'La Santisima', 'Dona Sebastiana', 'Little White Girl' or 'The Skinny Girl', is thought to date back to pre-Columbian times and currently has some two million faithfuls in Mexico. Every month thousands of devotees attend different shrines to make offerings and ask for petitions. (LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Yolanda Salazar pays respect to the Santa Muerte (Saint of Death) the sanctuary placed at her home in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, Mexico on October 31, 2010. Salazar makes different rituals, ceremonies and even baptisms. The sanctuary to the Santa Muerte (Saint of Death), placed in her home, is visited for dozens of devotees who go to ask to the saint for jobs, to keep away from evil and to have a good health. The cult of this pseudo-religious skeletal image, also known as 'La Santísima', 'Dona Sebastiana', 'Little White Girl' or 'The Skinny Girl', is thought to date back to pre-Columbian times. (Jesus Alcazar/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Devotees hold aloft their figures of Santa Muerte (Saint of Death) before the central altar asking for favors during the main celebration in the market of one of the most dangerous neighborhoods, known as Tepito in Mexico City, on November 1, 2012. Santa Muerte is an occult figure venerated primarily in Mexico and the United States, probably a syncretism between Mesoamerican and Catholic beliefs, although strongly condemned by the Catholic Church as Satanic. (YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Devotees hold aloft their figures of Santa Muerte (Saint of Death) before the central altar asking for favors during the main celebration in the market of one of the most dangerous neighborhoods, known as Tepito in Mexico City, on November 1, 2012. Santa Muerte is an occult figure venerated primarily in Mexico and the United States, probably a syncretism between Mesoamerican and Catholic beliefs, although strongly condemned by the Catholic Church as Satanic. (YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A devotee of the Santa Muerte (Saint of Death) blows smoke during the main celebration at the market in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods, known as Tepito in Mexico City, on November 1, 2012. Santa Muerte is an occult figure venerated primarily in Mexico and the United States, probably a syncretism between Mesoamerican and Catholic beliefs, although strongly condemned by the Catholic Church as Satanic. (YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Devotees of the Santa Muerte (Saint of Death) walks to the altar during the main celebration at the market market of one of the most dangerous neighborhoods, known as Tepito in Mexico City, on November 1, 2012. Santa Muerte is an occult figure venerated primarily in Mexico and the United States, probably a syncretism between Mesoamerican and Catholic beliefs, although strongly condemned by the Catholic Church as Satanic. (YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Devotees of the Santa Muerte (Saint of Death) walks to the altar during the main celebration at the market of one of the most dangerous neighborhoods, known as Tepito in Mexico City, on November 1, 2012. Santa Muerte is an occult figure venerated primarily in Mexico and the United States, probably a syncretism between Mesoamerican and Catholic beliefs, although strongly condemned by the Catholic Church as Satanic. (YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A large figure of Santa Muerte (Saint of Death) is seen during the main celebration in the market of one of the most dangerous neighborhoods, known as Tepito in Mexico City, on November 1, 2012. Santa Muerte is an occult figure venerated primarily in Mexico and the United States, probably a syncretism between Mesoamerican and Catholic beliefs, although strongly condemned by the Catholic Church as Satanic. (YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

  • People carry a statue of La Santa Muerte or goddess of death at the Virgen de Lourdes cemetery where relatives converge to honor friends and family who have passed, marking the Day of the Dead holiday, in Lima, Peru, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012. The holiday honors the deceased on Nov. 1, coinciding with All Saints Day and All Souls' Day on Nov. 2. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

  • Devotees carry a figure of Santa Muerte (Saint of Death) while arriving to pray in the central altar during the main celebration in the market of one of the most dangerous neighborhoods, known as Tepito in Mexico City, on November 1, 2012. Santa Muerte is an occult figure venerated primarily in Mexico and the United States, probably a syncretism between Mesoamerican and Catholic beliefs, although strongly condemned by the Catholic Church as Satanic. (YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A devotee of the Santa Muerte (Saint of Death) pours tequila (traditional Mexican licour) on an effigy during the main celebration at the market of one of the most dangerous neighborhoods, known as Tepito in Mexico City, on November 1, 2012. Santa Muerte is an occult figure venerated primarily in Mexico and the United States, probably a syncretism between Mesoamerican and Catholic beliefs, although strongly condemned by the Catholic Church as Satanic. (YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A devotee of the Santa Muerte (Saint of Death) holds an effigy during the main celebration at the market of one of the most dangerous neighborhood, know as Tepito in Mexico City, on November 1, 2012. Santa Muerte is an occult figure venerated primarily in Mexico and the United States, probably a syncretism between Mesoamerican and Catholic beliefs, although strongly condemned by the Catholic Church as Satanic. (YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A devotee of Santa Muerte (Saint of Death) participates during the main celebration in the market of one of the most dangerous neighborhoods, known as Tepito in Mexico City, on November 1, 2012. Santa Muerte is an occult figure venerated primarily in Mexico and the United States, probably a syncretism between Mesoamerican and Catholic beliefs, although strongly condemned by the Catholic Church as Satanic. (YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A devotee of the Santa Muerte (Saint of Death) walking on knees arrives during the main celebration at the market of one of the most dangerous neighborhood, known as Tepito in Mexico City, on November 1, 2012. Santa Muerte is an occult figure venerated primarily in Mexico and the United States, probably a syncretism between Mesoamerican and Catholic beliefs, although strongly condemned by the Catholic Church as Satanic. (YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A devotee prays at the Santa Muerte (Saint of Death) altar in the Yolanda Salazar's sanctuary placed at her home in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, Mexico on October 31, 2010. Salazar makes different rituals, ceremonies and even baptisms. The sanctuary to the Santa Muerte (Saint of Death), placed in her home, is visited for dozens of devotees who go to ask to the saint for jobs, to keep away from evil and to have a good health. The cult of this pseudo-religious skeletal image, also known as 'La Santísima', 'Dona Sebastiana', 'Little White Girl' or 'The Skinny Girl', is thought to date back to pre-Columbian times. (Jesus Alcazar/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A man wearing a surgical mask passes in front of an image of the 'Santa Muerte', at La Merced market in Mexico City, on April 30, 2009. Mexico on Thursday sharply raised its number of confirmed influenza A (H1N1) (swine flu virus) cases to 260, including 12 deaths, as many citizens prepared to spend the May Day holiday at home to prevent the spread of the virus. (LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A car with the image of 'Santa Muerte' (Holy Death) painted on its hood remains parked at Tepito shantytown, in Mexico City, on April 5, 2009. The cult of this pseudo-religious skeletal image, also known as 'La Santísima', 'Dona Sebastiana', 'Little White Girl' or 'The Skinny Girl', is thought to date back to pre-Columbian times. The Holy Death currently has some two million faithfuls in Mexico who ask to the authorities to be recognized as a separate religion. (ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A woman stands beside two images of the 'Santa Muerte' (Holy Death) Holy Death in Mexico City, on April 5, 2009. The cult of this pseudo-religious skeletal image, also known as 'La Santísima', 'Dona Sebastiana', 'Little White Girl' or 'The Skinny Girl', is thought to date back to pre-Columbian times. The Holy Death currently has some two million faithfuls in Mexico who ask to the authorities to be recognized as a separate religion. (ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Devotees of the 'Santa Muerte' (Holy Death), pray at one of her shrines in honour of the goddess in Mexico City, on December 9, 2008. The cult of this pseudo-religious skeletal image, also known as 'La Santísima', 'Doña Sebastiana', 'Little White Girl' or 'The Skinny Girl', is thought to date back to pre-Columbian times. The Holy Death currently has some two million faithfuls in Mexico. (Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Image of the 'Santa Muerte' (Holy Death) as seen at one of her shrines in Mexico City, on December 9, 2008. The cult of this pseudo-religious skeletal image, also known as 'La Santísima', 'Doña Sebastiana', 'Little White Girl' or 'The Skinny Girl', is thought to date back to pre-Columbian times. The Holy Death currently has some two million faithfuls in Mexico. (Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Leticia Perez, devotee of the 'Santa Muerte' (Holy Death), puts flowers in honour of the goddess in Mexico City, on December 9, 2008. The cult of this pseudo-religious skeletal image, also known as 'La Santísima', 'Doña Sebastiana', 'Little White Girl' or 'The Skinny Girl', is thought to date back to pre-Columbian times. The Holy Death currently has some two million faithfuls in Mexico. (Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Image of the 'Santa Muerte' (Holy Death) at one of her shrines in Mexico City, on December 9, 2008. The cult of this pseudo-religious skeletal image, also known as 'La Santísima', 'Doña Sebastiana', 'Little White Girl' or 'The Skinny Girl', is thought to date back to pre-Columbian times. The Holy Death currently has some two million faithfuls in Mexico. (Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images)

  • T-shirts with images of the 'Santa Muerte' (Holy Death), are for sale in the surroundings of the shrine in honour of the goddess in the popular Tepito shantytown, in Mexico City, 01 November 2007, date just happening to coincide with the Day of the Dead. Every first day of each month, thousands of devotees, attend the different shirnes to make offerings and ask for petitions. The cult of this pseudo-religious skeletal image, also known as 'La Sant?sima', 'Do?a Sebastiana', 'Little White Girl' or 'The Skinny Girl', is thought to date back to pre-Columbian times. The Holy Death currently has some two million faithfuls in Mexico. (LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Picture of a figure of the 'Santa Muerte' (Holy Death) covered in jewellery, taken at her shrine in the popular Tepito shantytown, in Mexico City, 01 November 2007, date just happening to coincide with the Day of the Dead. Every first day of each month, thousands of devotees, attend the different shirnes to make offerings and ask for petitions. The cult of this pseudo-religious skeletal image, also known as 'La Sant?sima', 'Do?a Sebastiana', 'Little White Girl' or 'The Skinny Girl', is thought to date back to pre-Columbian times. The Holy Death currently has some two million faithfuls in Mexico. (LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Devotees of the 'Santa Muerte' (Holy Death), pray at the shrine in honour of the goddess in the popular Tepito shantytown, in Mexico City, 01 November 2007, date just happening to coincide with the Day of the Dead. Every first day of each month, thousands of devotees, attend the different shirnes to make offerings and ask for petitions. The cult of this pseudo-religious skeletal image, also known as 'La Sant?sima', 'Do?a Sebastiana', 'Little White Girl' or 'The Skinny Girl', is thought to date back to pre-Columbian times. The Holy Death currently has some two million faithfuls in Mexico. (LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • In this Feb. 12, 2013 photo, an offering to a statue of La Sante Muerte at an altar run by Arely Vazquez Gonzalez, a Mexican immigrant and transgender woman, is shown at inside a Queens, NY apartment. La Santa Muerte, an underworld saint most recently associated with the violent drug trade in Mexico, now is spreading throughout the U.S. among a new group of followers ranging from immigrant small business owners to artists and gay activists. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras)

  • Figures of the Santa Muerte (Saint of Death) next to a Christian cross at the Yolanda Salazar's sanctuary placed at her home in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, Mexico on October 31, 2010. Salazar makes different rituals, ceremonies and even baptisms. The sanctuary to the Santa Muerte (Saint of Death), placed in her home, is visited for dozens of devotees who go to ask to the saint for jobs, to keep away from evil and to have a good health. The cult of this pseudo-religious skeletal image, also known as 'La Santísima', 'Dona Sebastiana', 'Little White Girl' or 'The Skinny Girl', is thought to date back to pre-Columbian times. )(Jesus Alcazar/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A devotee blows smoke to the figures of the Santa Muerte (Saint of Death) in an altar at the Yolanda Salazar's sanctuary placed at her home in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, Mexico on October 31, 2010.. Salazar makes different rituals, ceremonies and even baptisms. The sanctuary to the Santa Muerte (Saint of Death), placed in her home, is visited for dozens of devotees who go to ask to the saint for jobs, to keep away from evil and to have a good health. The cult of this pseudo-religious skeletal image, also known as 'La Santísima', 'Dona Sebastiana', 'Little White Girl' or 'The Skinny Girl', is thought to date back to pre-Columbian times. (Jesus Alcazar/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A devotee of the 'Santa Muerte' (Holy Death), prays at the shrine in honour of the goddess in the popular Tepito shantytown, in Mexico City, Nov. 1, 2007, date just happening to coincide with the Day of the Dead. Every first day of each month, thousands of devotees, attend the different shirnes to make offerings and ask for petitions. The cult of this pseudo-religious skeletal image, also known as 'La Sant?sima', 'Do?a Sebastiana', 'Little White Girl' or 'The Skinny Girl', is thought to date back to pre-Columbian times. The Holy Death currently has some two million faithfuls in Mexico. (LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A devotee of the 'Santa Muerte' (Holy Death), carries an image of the goddess outside her shrine in the popular Tepito shantytown, in Mexico City, 01 November 2007, date just happening to coincide with the Day of the Dead. Every first day of each month, thousands of devotees, attend the different shirnes to make offerings and ask for petitions. The cult of this pseudo-religious skeletal image, also known as 'La Sant?sima', 'Do?a Sebastiana', 'Little White Girl' or 'The Skinny Girl', is thought to date back to pre-Columbian times. The Holy Death currently has some two million faithfuls in Mexico. (LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A devotee of the 'Santa Muerte' (Holy Death), shows his tattoo at the shrine in honour of the goddess in the popular Tepito shantytown, in Mexico City, Nov. 1, 2007, date just happening to coincide with the Day of the Dead. Every first day of each month, thousands of devotees, attend the different shirnes to make offerings and ask for petitions. The cult of this pseudo-religious skeletal image, also known as 'La Sant?sima', 'Do?a Sebastiana', 'Little White Girl' or 'The Skinny Girl', is thought to date back to pre-Columbian times. The Holy Death currently has some two million faithfuls in Mexico. (LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A mural of the Santa Muerte is painted on top of a gang-related theme mural in South Central Los Angeles Nov. 28, 2006. South Central, California is a 40 mile (64 km) district in the city of Los Angeles betwen downtown and the port area of Long Beach. Early in the 20th century South's Central population was predominantly African American, but since 1970 it has become more multiracial owing especially to a large influx of Latinos, which has created tensions betwen these two communities. Santa Muerte is a popular but marginal religious figure venerated in Mexico. Its followers are among the poor and the marginal of the city and its cult has been exported to the US with the growing hispanic population in urban areas. (HECTOR MATA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A devotee of the 'Santa Muerte' (Holy Death), prays at the shrine in her honour in the popular Tepito shantytown, in Mexico City, Nov. 1, 2007, date just happening to coincide with the Day of the Dead. Every first day of each month, thousands of devotees, attend the different shirnes to make offerings and ask for petitions. The cult of this pseudo-religious skeletal image, also known as 'La Sant?sima', 'Do?a Sebastiana', 'Little White Girl' or 'The Skinny Girl', is thought to date back to pre-Columbian times. The Holy Death currently has some two million faithfuls in Mexico. (LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A devotee of the 'Santa Muerte' (Holy Death), kisses a candle at the shrine in the honour of the goddess in the popular Tepito shantytown, in Mexico City, 01 November 2007, date just happening to coincide with the Day of the Dead. Every first day of each month, thousands of devotees, attend the different shirnes to make offerings and ask for petitions. The cult of this pseudo-religious skeletal image, also known as 'La Sant?sima', 'Do?a Sebastiana', 'Little White Girl' or 'The Skinny Girl', is thought to date back to pre-Columbian times. The Holy Death currently has some two million faithfuls in Mexico. (LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Faithfuls carry an image of the 'Santa Muerte' (Holly Death) during a procession in Mexico City's downtown March 4, 2005. Clad in white, hundreds of followers of the Holy Death, a sect considered as sacrilegious by the Catholic Church of Mexico, took part in a procession with their 'Monsignor' on the lead, asking from the Mexican government a new temple and more tolerance. (JUAN BARRETO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Estatuilla del altar a la Santa Muerte que la inmigrante mexicana transgénero Arley Vázquez González tiene en su casa de Queens, Nueva York. Enormemente popular en México, donde a veces se la vincula con el narcotráfico, la santa tiene cada vez más devotos en EEUU. Foto del 12 de febrero del 2013. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras)

  • Estatua de la Santa Muerte del altar que la inmigrante mexicana transgénero Arley Vázquez González tiene en su casa de Queens, Nueva York. Enormemente popular en México, donde a veces se la vincula con el narcotráfico, la santa tiene cada vez más devotos en EEUU. Foto del 12 de febrero del 2013. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras)

  • Arely Vazquez Gonzalez

    La inmigrante mexicana transgénero Arley Vázquez González posa junto al altar a la Santa Muerte que tiene en su casa en Queens, Nueva York. Enormemente popular en México, donde a veces se la vincula con el narcotráfico, la santa tiene cada vez más devotos en EEUU. Foto del 12 de febrero del 2013. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras)

  • Estatuillas de la Santa Muerte en venta en Masks y Más, un negocio de Albuquerque, Nuevo México. Enormemente popular en México, donde a veces se la vincula con el narcotráfico, la santa tiene cada vez más devotos en EEUU. Foto del 13 de febrero del 2013. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras)

And her following is growing in North America too.

Andrew Chesnut, author of "Devoted to Death: Santa Muerte, the Skeleton Saint", says: "Her growth in the United States has been extraordinary.

"Because you can ask her for anything, she has mass appeal and is now gaining a diverse group of followers throughout the country. She's the ultimate multi-tasker."

Blogging for the Huffington Post, he added: “Many Americans perceive her as a malicious figure at best and satanic at worst.

“In 2005 the Mexican government reacted to similar events by revoking the legal rights of a church devoted to her veneration in Mexico City. Let's hope that as the cult of the controversial skeleton saint continues to grow on this side of the border, we uphold our own cherished tradition of religious freedom.”

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  • Earthly Death

  • Colorful Death

  • Buxom Death

  • Black Death

  • Yellow Death

  • Intense Death

  • Permanent Death

  • Elaborate Death