March 10, 2008 / 3:52 AM / 9 years ago

Nicaraguans celebrate mass for dogs, pray for cures

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<p>A dog rests inside church during San Lazaro celebrations in the indigenous community of Monimbo in Masaya City, some 15 miles (24 km) south of Managua, March 9, 2008.Oswaldo Rivas</p>

MASAYA, Nicaragua (Reuters) - Hundreds of dogs, many dressed as babies or clowns, were taken to celebrate mass in this Nicaraguan town on Sunday, an annual ritual where the owners pray for their pets to be cured or avoid falling ill.

Slideshow (3 Images)

A long queue of Catholics, carrying their pets or leading them on leashes, waited their turn to pass by an image of a saint in a tiny church in this town 20 miles to the south of the Nicaragua capital, Managua.

The faithful thank the saint for curing their pets or ask for the dogs to be protected from illness. The town's priest always conducts a special canine mass.

"We brought him so he does not get sick," said local resident Nora Espinosa, talking about her six-month-old Basset Hound, dressed in a soccer outfit.

Locals say the tradition goes back to the colonial period after the Spanish conquest.

Reporting by Ivan Castro; writing by Chris Aspin

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