Buenos Aires (AFP) - Responding to a call by Pope Francis, thousands of Argentines marched from church through the streets on Sunday in a mass protest demanding more jobs and less poverty.
Catholic worshippers marked the feast of Cajetan, patron saint of the unemployed, praying to him at the church that bears his name in Buenos Aires.
Thousands joined a street procession from the church in the west of the city to central Plaza de Mayo square in front of the presidential palace.
They marched under the slogan "bread and work" to the din of drums and yells of "More jobs!"
It was the latest in a series of protests against job cuts and utility rate hikes this year under the government of conservative President Mauricio Macri.
Labor unions say 200,000 jobs have been cut in various sectors since Macri took office in December. His government says 52,000 private sector jobs and 11,000 public posts were cut between January and May.
At a mass in the church, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, Mario Poli, read out a letter from the Argentine-born Pope Francis who expressed concern over "high levels of unemployment" in his homeland.
A recent study by Catholic University estimated that 1.4 million people fell in poverty in Argentina in the first quarter of this year.
Argentina is the third biggest economy in Latin America but is stricken by high inflation.
"The pope asked us bishops to support the people's calls for bread and work. That is why we are here," one of the organizers of the march, Eduardo Farrel, told AFP.
Macri insists his austere reforms and his devaluation of the peso currency are necessary to strengthen the economy in the long run.
"For every job that is officially created, three or four jobs in the underground economy disappear," said Farrel.