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Brazil faithful pray to saint for World Cup success

Written by: Staff

SAO PAULO, Brazil, June 12 (Reuters) Even though Brazil is the World Cup favorite, many Brazilians will seek a helping hand from the country's patron saint, St. Anthony, when the national soccer team takes on Croatia in its opening game in Berlin tomorrow.

June 13 is also St. Anthony's Day and crowds of devout in the world's largest Roman Catholic nation are expected to attend special masses.

Churches in parishes dedicated to St. Anthony in Brazil's biggest city of Sao Paulo said they will invite worshipers to stay on after mass and watch the game in church halls. In Pari parish, the church has set up a big screen.

''There will be masses, churches will be decorated, some with Brazil emblems,'' said Father Sergio in Bauru parish. ''He was the saint of happiness and for Brazilians, today happiness is for football.'' One possible complication is that Brazil's opponent Croatia is also a strongly Catholic country.

Father Antonio Carlos, in Limao parish, said he believed the saint would remain neutral in the match.

''St. Anthony is popular the world over,'' he said. ''I say St.

Anthony will not be involved. These things will be decided on the field, not at mass.'' REUTERS PDS BD2131

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