Manila (AsiaNews) – More than 80,000 people celebrated today the Black Nazarene, a black statue depicting Jesus bearing the cross to Calvary that is carried in a traditional procession in the streets of central Manila. For local worshippers the statue works miracles.
About 700 police secured the roads that led to the procession route, concerned that the event might be used for attacks against the statue, even symbolic ones.
In reality what was carried was only a replica of the four-century-old icon which is instead kept in a church in Quiapo.
The archbishop of Manila, Card Gaudencio Rosales, who led a dawn Mass, said that the original statue represents every Catholic’s desire to take up “one’s crosses and trials in life in imitation of Christ.”
Angela Ceralvo, a 29-year-old homemaker, said that her devotion to the Black Nazarene grew thanks to her mother.
Peter Tanlayko, 35, was also raised with the ritual. Like his father and grandfather he walked barefoot for five kilometres following the statue.
According to the Filipino Catholics the procession and the days that follow are a chance to celebrate Masses and popular traditions, an important way to visibly show a genuine desire to atone one’s sins.
For others however the way atonement is manifested during the procession is “excessive.”
The statue of the Black Nazarene arrived in the Philippines on 31 May 1606 when the first Augustinian missionaries set foot in Manila.
Built in Mexico the figure represents the Saviour kneeling under the weight of the cross.
Its fame as worker of miracles stems from the fact that it survived a fire that destroyed the ship that brought it into the country.
Placed inside the church in Bagumbayan—now called Luneta near central Manila—on 10 September of the same year, it was moved to the Saint Nicholas Tolentina Parish Church where it remained until the latter part of the 18th century. The archbishop of the capital at the time, Mgr Basilio Sancho de Santas Justa, eventually ordered it to be moved to the church in Quiapo, its final destination.
The popular devotion sparked by the icon led the Holy See under Innocent X to canonically institute the Confraternity of Jesus Nazarene. In the 19th century Pope Pius VII honoured the Black Nazarene by granting plenary indulgence “to those who pray to it in a pious way.”