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Crowd of Catholics in Manila for the “Black Nazarene”

Ⓒ AFP – TED ALJIBE – | A crowd accompanies the annual procession of the “Black Nazarene” in the streets of Manila, January 9, 2018

A crowd accompanied Tuesday the annual procession of “Black Nazarene” in the streets of Manila, the faithful seeking to touch this statue endowed with miraculous powers in one of the most impressive manifestations of Catholic fervor.

Convinced that she can heal diseases or bring good fortune, men, women and children climb on top of each other to throw themselves on the human-sized statue of Christ, who carries a large black cross on his shoulder.

Perched on a chariot pulled by faithful by means of enormous ropes, she left for a day the basilica of the Black Nazarene, in the district of Quiapo, for a slow procession of twenty hours in the streets of the party Old Manila.

Millions of people are expected in his path, according to the police, many chanting “Viva” and trying to touch the statue with a white cloth, convinced that it will absorb in turn the miraculous powers.

“It’s really hard to reach the Nazarene, I got crushed, I was hit on the face, but I have my faith,” explained to AFP Honey Pescante, a housewife of 24 years of the province of Bataan, west of the capital of the archipelago 80% Catholic.

The statue is called the Black Nazarene because of its dark color due, according to its legend, to the fire of the ship that brought it from Mexico in the early seventeenth century.

Ⓒ AFP – TED ALJIBE – | A crowd accompanies the annual procession of the “Black Nazarene” in the streets of Manila, January 9, 2018

– Two deaths in 2016 –

Half a thousand people are injured every year during this procession in the jostling around the statue. In 2016, two people died.

A report that is often recalled by those who denounce the fact that this procession is too close to idolatry.

Church leaders and some sociologists explain that this event is lived as a challenge by the faithful.

“Filipino Catholicism follows the idea that the presence of the Holy Spirit can be felt by the body” and the suffering, says Maria Yohana Frias, an ethnology researcher at the National Museum of the Philippines.

“For some, participating barefoot in a procession is also a way of testing one’s faith,” she adds.

The belief in the miraculous virtues of the statue has also been reinforced, over the centuries, by the fact that it survived many other fires and earthquakes, as well as the bombing of Manila in 1945.

Ⓒ AFP – TED ALJIBE – | A crowd accompanies the annual procession of the “Black Nazarene” in the streets of Manila, January 9, 2018

“The Filipinos who come to Quiapo have the feeling of being close to the Lord, that the Lord touches them, accompanies them through difficult challenges,” explains Father Marvin Cruz, vicar of the parish of Quiapo.

On a sidewalk, Julio Castillo, 61, followed Tuesday the procession sitting in his wheelchair, after a double fracture of the feet during a motorcycle accident last month.

“I come here because I have faith,” he says.

“I hope my family will stay healthy and prosperous, that we will not be sick and that I will heal,” he says.

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