As they do every year, thousands of Cubans flocked Monday to the Havana sanctuary of El Rincon in a massive show of faith to venerate and give thanks to St. Lazarus with their penance, pledges and offerings.

Doctors couldn't heal what was wrong with one foot, but thanks to St. Lazarus I can walk perfectly now

- Israel Macias Hernandez

Young and old, children, women and men observed the tradition of paying tribute to the saint with offerings of flowers, candles and money.

On the way to the chapel, many believers walked barefoot, and as usual some punished themselves by dragging their bodies over the rough asphalt or proceeded ahead slowly on their knees.

Such was the case of Yunaisi Gonzalez, 25, who with great effort struggled the 100 meters (330 feet) separating the sanctuary entrance from the altar where she laid her offering of candles and flowers.

Yunaisi told Efe she has made the pilgrimage for the last six years to keep a promise she made to the saint for curing her son of an ailment he had as a baby.

Israel Macias Hernandez came barefoot to the chapel to give thanks for the good health St. Lazarus restored to him after a motorcycle accident.

"Doctors couldn't heal what was wrong with one foot, but thanks to St. Lazarus I can walk perfectly now," the 30-year-old penitent said.

Others camped in the chapel gardens before dawn, waiting to attend the Masses that would be said in the early hours of the morning, including one, according to custom, officiated by Cuba's Catholic primate, Cardinal Jaime Ortega.

In his sermon the prelate included praise for the "sensitivity" that many Cubans showed with their donations to compatriots who had lost so much in the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.

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