Among the celebrations of a religious nature, the procession of the "Black Nazarene" is one of the most famous and popular. Along the way, faithful flock to touch or kiss the sculpture as a sign of devotion. PIME Missionary: "The image of the suffering Nazarene is in the heart of Filipino spirituality and religiosity".
Manila (AsiaNews) - More than 800,000 Catholics flocked to the streets of central Manila this morning to take part in the traditional procession of the Black Nazarene, a century-old wooden statue of Christ. Every year, the translation of the sacred sculpture from its original site - the church of St. Nicholas from Tolentino - to the parish of Quiapo concludes a novena (December 31-January 9) and sees the participation of millions of faithful gathered in prayer, to ask a personal grace or miracle.
In the Philippines, over 82% of the 105 million people are Catholics. Among the celebrations of a religious nature, the procession of the "Black Nazarene" is one of the most famous and popular. The statue of the Black Nazarene represents Jesus bent under the weight of the Cross. It was brought to Manila by an Augustinian Spanish priest in 1607 on board a ship from Mexico. According to tradition, the boat caught fire during the journey, but the image of Christ miraculously escaped the fire taking on the black color. The procession recalls the first movement of the statue, which took place on January 9th 1767.
Along the whole route (seven kilometers) of the Translation the faithful flock to touch or kiss the sculpture as a sign of devotion. In the middle of the morning, the Philippine Red Cross claims to have assisted more than 600 people with breathing problems, fainting and bruising. Three people were transported to the hospital. To prevent the toll from escalating, this year the organizers reiterated to the faithful that it is not necessary to climb over other devotees to honor the Black Nazarene.
Impressive security measures are ordered by the authorities. The head of the Filipino police, Oscar Albayalde, claims to have deployed more than 7 thousand agents to ensure the security of the event, while mobile phone networks have been deactivated as a precaution against remote-controlled explosive devices.
"In the Translation of the Black Nazarene, the devotion of the Filipino people finds its maximum expression. There is nothing like this in the world " Fr. Sebastiano D'Ambra, missionary of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) tells AsiaNews. For over 40 years the priest has carried out his pastoral work on the island of Mindanao, where in 1984 he founded Silsilah, a movement for Islamic-Christian dialogue.
"Since the days of Spanish domination," says the priest, "the Holy Week and the Passion of Christ have assumed great importance in the life of the nation in the Philippines. The image of the suffering Nazarene has thus entered the heart of spirituality and popular religiosity. Many people, among the millions of devotees who participate each year in the celebrations, attend the Translation to fulfill a promise made ".
"I know the event well - concludes the priest - because in the past I helped with the organization. Furthermore, one of our groups operates in the parish of Quiapo. In fact, near the church there is a mosque, the Golden Mosque. Years ago, the parish priest asked us to work together for interreligious dialogue with the local Islamic community. I often go to the parish and on every occasion I find long lines of faithful who pay homage to the statue, even with a caress or a prayer. Every first Friday of the month the church is even more crowded and the priests celebrate a mass every hour of the day, from five in the morning until seven in the evening ".