LEON, Spain (AP) _ Worshipers at a church in northern Spain who find themselves short of cash when the collection basket comes around can now make donations the modern way: through a credit card.

``Since we have a habit of using credit cards in our society, I thought it would be easier for the church to obtain donations this way, and also much safer,'' said Roberto Asenjo, priest of San Claudio Roman Catholic Church.

A few days before Christmas, a shoebox-sized machine was installed on a wall inside the small church.

It works much like an automatic teller machine: insert a credit card. But instead of receiving cash, the person operating the machine types in the amount of the donation. Out comes a receipt for the tax deductible donation.

To Asenjo's dismay, few of the church's 9,000 parishioners have used the machine.

``People in Leon are a bit tight, and the old women, who are the regular churchgoers, are accustomed to bringing their coins with them,'' Asenjo said.

So the traditional small wicker basket still gets passed around at Mass to finance the 40-year-old church and help the poor in this city, 170 miles northwest of Madrid.

Asenjo said he took the innovative approach of allowing credit card donations after Leon's cathedral reported thefts from its collection basket.

Although only about three people use the machine at each Mass, there has been a side benefit: Tourists who visit Leon's cathedral to see its stained-glass windows and gothic arches are now also stopping by the San Claudio church to see the credit card machine.