01/09/2024, 13.11
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Manila: Covid archived, millions of faithful in procession for the Black Nazarene

by Santosh Digal

Two million people participated today in the capital in the traditional event, one of the most important and popular for the Philippine Church. The statue enclosed in a glass case, to ward off assaults from the crowd. The first celebration without any particular restrictions, after the closures and constraints imposed by the pandemic.

Manila (AsiaNews) - Up to two million faithful took part today in Manila in the procession of the "Black Nazarene", one of the most important events for the Church in the Philippines, the only country with a Catholic majority in Asia and linked to the centenary statue in wood of Christ.

Every year the translation of the sacred sculpture from the original site, the church of S. Nicola da Tolentino, in the parish of Quiapo, in the capital, concludes a novena (31 December - 9 January) and sees the massive participation of people praying to ask for a personal grace or miracle.

In the last three years the festival has suffered cancellations or taken place on a smaller scale due to the Covid-19 pandemic; for this reason, the current edition represents a moment of further celebration and relaunches the faithful's bond with Jesus who carries the cross.

The historic statue of the Black Nazarene, life-size and covered in glass to prevent the faithful from climbing as happened in the past, parades in procession in the heart of Manila after a mass celebrated at dawn.

An event with a strong spiritual and votive meaning and which reveals the close link between faith, society and tradition. This year the authorities have deployed over 15 thousand security personnel and medical personnel along the route, ready to intervene in case of emergency.

Two million faithful took part in the (slow) journey towards the church of Quiapo, according to the first unofficial estimates: among the people it is common practice to pay homage to the statue, which has "magical and healing" powers, so much so that it would be enough to touch it - hence the choice to lock it in a shrine, to avoid accidents - to heal from incurable diseases or to curry favor with fate.

Fr Hans Magdurulang, spokesperson for the 2024 edition of the Nazarene, reports to AsiaNews that since the early hours of the morning there were already over 1.3 million faithful, most of them "barefoot".

Dori Hael Marquez, mother of two young children, says she has been a "devotee" of the Black Nazarene "for decades. I have continually received miracles from Him." She is echoed by Mavic Duque, mother of six grown children, who confides: “Thank you very much, our beloved Lord Jesus of Nazareth, for your blessings upon us and for our salvation in daily life. You will always guide us. Viva Nuestra Jesus Nazarene”.

Luzviminda Parada, a private sector employee, adds: “Amidst a vibrant sea of devotees, the Feast of the Black Nazarene unfolds as a powerful celebration of faith, unity and the enduring spirit that binds us on this sacred journey.”

In the Philippines, over 82% of the approximately 110 million inhabitants are Catholic. Among the religious celebrations, the procession of the "Black Nazarene" is among the most famous and popular.

The statue represents Jesus bent under the weight of the Cross. It was brought to Manila by a Spanish Augustinian priest in 1607 aboard a ship from Mexico. According to tradition, the boat caught fire during the voyage, but the image of Christ miraculously escaped the fire by turning black. In the past a Philippine prelate, Msgr. Sabino Vengco, stated that the dark color is linked to the use of mesquite wood.

The procession commemorates the first movement of the statue, which took place on 9 January 1767. Along the entire route (seven kilometres) of the Translation, which lasts several hours, the faithful flock to touch or kiss the sculpture as a sign of devotion, creating enormous gatherings. This is why in recent years the event has been canceled or has suffered heavy restrictions in terms of prevention and public health.

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