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Even Mexico's tough-luck saint has tough year in 2020

Mexico’s patron saint of lost causes and difficult cases had a tough day Wednesday, drawing only a fraction of the huge crowd he normally gets for his annual celebration.

San Judas Tadeo, who would seem the perfect figure for a pandemic-battered 2020 when so many people have lost jobs and loved ones, is celebrated Oct. 28 in Mexico, especially by the poor or those with legal problems, who believe he stands up for the underdog.

But this year’s celebrations at a downtown Mexico City church were only about a tenth the size they usually are, said Mexico City's culture secretary, José Alfonso Suárez.

Faithful wearing protective face masks amid the new coronavirus, arrive to the San Hipolito Catholic church as part of the annual pilgrimage honoring Saint Jude, the patron saint of lost causes, in Mexico City, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020. Thousands of Mexicans did not miss this year to mark St. Jude's feast day, but the pandemic caused Masses to be canceled and the rivers of people of other years were replaced by orderly lines of masked worshipers waiting their turn for a blessing. (AP PhotoMarco Ugarte)

Fears of coronavirus infection reduced the throngs that normally spill out onto nearby streets to orderly lines of worshippers wearing cloth face masks. About 120 police officers were on hand to keep order.

While devotees of the saint launched fireworks throughout the day to honor him, people carrying statues of San Judas — St. Jude — waited patiently in line to enter the church. They had their temperatures taken and were given hand sanitizer, quickly got their San Judas figures blessed and left the building.

“We welcome them, say a prayer of blessing and tell them to leave," said Rev. Mario González, the rector of the San Hipólito and San Casiano church. “We are happy to see such devotion, but it is a serious responsibility and we want to preserve people's welfare.”

Faithful wearing protective face masks amid the new coronavirus, wait in line to enter the San Hipolito Catholic church as part of the annual pilgrimage honoring Saint Jude, the patron saint of lost causes, in Mexico City, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020. Thousands of Mexicans did not miss this year to mark St. Jude's feast day, but the pandemic caused Masses to be canceled and the rivers of people of other years were replaced by orderly lines of masked worshipers waiting their turn for a blessing. (AP PhotoMarco Ugarte)

Suárez said the whole process lasted only about five minutes per person, compared to the day-long festivities that mark most years, noting “the procedure is working pretty well.”

For many, even in a city that has already seen 157,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and almost 15,000 deaths from COIVD-19 and where the mayor recently announced she was infected, many viewed the annual homage to the saint as a date they could not miss.

Manuel Reyes, who came to the church dressed in the saint’s green and white robes, said he was former teacher who now sells cellphones and he become a devotee of the saint after a brush with the law.

Devotees, wearing protective face masks amid the new coronavirus pandemic, arrive to the San Hipolito Catholic church during the annual pilgrimage honoring Saint Jude, the patron saint of lost causes, in Mexico City, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020. Thousands of Mexicans did not miss this year to mark St. Jude's feast day, but the pandemic caused Masses to be canceled and the rivers of people of other years were replaced by orderly lines of masked worshipers waiting their turn for a blessing. (AP PhotoMarco Ugarte)

“I told San Juditas with all my faith, with all my devotion, that I would celebrate his day every year, and here I am,” Reyes said.

Associated Press journalists Gerardo Carrillo and Marco Ugarte contributed to this report

Devotees carrying their statues of Saint Jude and wearing protective face masks amid the new coronavirus, arrive to the San Hipolito Catholic church, as part of the annual pilgrimage honoring Jude, the patron saint of lost causes, in Mexico City, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020. Thousands of Mexicans did not miss this year to mark St. Jude's feast day, but the pandemic caused Masses to be canceled and the rivers of people of other years were replaced by orderly lines of masked worshipers waiting their turn for a blessing. (AP PhotoMarco Ugarte)

Faithful wearing protective face masks amid the new coronavirus, wait in line to enter the San Hipolito Catholic church as part of the annual pilgrimage honoring Saint Jude, the patron saint of lost causes, in Mexico City, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020. Thousands of Mexicans did not miss this year to mark St. Jude's feast day, but the pandemic caused Masses to be canceled and the rivers of people of other years were replaced by orderly lines of masked worshipers waiting their turn for a blessing. (AP PhotoMarco Ugarte)

A man holding a statue of Saint Jude and wearing a protective face mask amid the new coronavirus, stands still as his temperature is measured before entering the San Hipolito Catholic church, during the annual pilgrimage honoring Jude, the patron saint of lost causes, in Mexico City, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020. Thousands of Mexicans did not miss this year to mark St. Jude's feast day, but the pandemic caused Masses to be canceled and the rivers of people of other years were replaced by orderly lines of masked worshipers waiting their turn for a blessing. (AP PhotoMarco Ugarte)

A boy holding a statue of Saint Jude and wearing a protective face mask amid the new coronavirus, stands still as his temperature is measured before entering the San Hipolito Catholic church, during the annual pilgrimage honoring Jude, the patron saint of lost causes, in Mexico City, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020. Thousands of Mexicans did not miss this year to mark St. Jude's feast day, but the pandemic caused Masses to be canceled and the rivers of people of other years were replaced by orderly lines of masked worshipers waiting their turn for a blessing. (AP PhotoMarco Ugarte)

Devotees wearing protective face masks amid the new coronavirus pandemic, walk into the San Hipolito Catholic church during the annual pilgrimage honoring Saint Jude, the patron saint of lost causes, in Mexico City, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020. Thousands of Mexicans did not miss this year to mark St. Jude's feast day, but the pandemic caused Masses to be canceled and the rivers of people of other years were replaced by orderly lines of masked worshipers waiting their turn for a blessing. (AP PhotoMarco Ugarte)

A priest blesses the Saint Jude statue of a devotee at the San Hipolito Catholic church during the annual pilgrimage honoring Jude, the patron saint of lost causes, in Mexico City, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020, amid the new coronavirus pandemic. Thousands of Mexicans did not miss this year to mark St. Jude's feast day, but the pandemic caused Masses to be canceled and the rivers of people of other years were replaced by orderly lines of masked worshipers waiting their turn for a blessing. (AP PhotoMarco Ugarte)

A devotee, wearing a protective face mask amid the new coronavirus pandemic, carries his Saint Jude statue into the San Hipolito Catholic church, during the annual pilgrimage honoring Jude, the patron saint of lost causes, in Mexico City, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020. Thousands of Mexicans did not miss this year to mark St. Jude's feast day, but the pandemic caused Masses to be canceled and the rivers of people of other years were replaced by orderly lines of masked worshipers waiting their turn for a blessing. (AP PhotoMarco Ugarte)

A devotee wearing a protective face mask amid the new coronavirus pandemic and carrying his Saint Jude statue, watches vendors prepare tacos during the annual pilgrimage honoring Jude, the patron saint of lost causes, in Mexico City, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020. Thousands of Mexicans did not miss this year to mark St. Jude's feast day, but the pandemic caused Masses to be canceled and the rivers of people of other years were replaced by orderly lines of masked worshipers waiting their turn for a blessing. (AP PhotoMarco Ugarte)

A Saint Jude statue is transported in the passenger seat of a car during the annual pilgrimage honoring Jude, the patron saint of lost causes, in Mexico City, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020. Thousands of Mexicans did not miss this year to mark St. Jude's feast day, but the pandemic caused Masses to be canceled and the rivers of people of other years outside the San Hipolito Catholic church were replaced by orderly lines of masked worshipers waiting their turn for a blessing. (AP PhotoMarco Ugarte)

A devotee travels on the subway with his Saint Jude statue during the annual pilgrimage honoring Jude, the patron saint of lost causes, in Mexico City, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020. Thousands of Mexicans did not miss this year to mark St. Jude's feast day, but the pandemic caused Masses to be canceled and the rivers of people of other years outside the San Hipolito Catholic church were replaced by orderly lines of masked worshipers waiting their turn for a blessing. (AP PhotoMarco Ugarte)