Tens of thousands of Catholic faithful walked through the streets of Manila early Sunday to show their devotion to the Black Nazarene in the first ever “Walk of Faith” to honor the image.
Church officials estimated that about 88,000 people showed up for the procession from the Quirino Grandstand in Manila’s Luneta Park to the Catholic church in Quiapo district.
Devotees carried candles and replicas of the Black Nazarene throughout the procession, while praying the rosary.
The six-kilometer “Walk of Faith,” which took more than two hours, was held instead of the traditional “traslacion (transfer)” of the life-sized image of the Nazarene due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Father Earl Valdez, spokesperson of Quiapo church, said the religious activity “was orderly” and was done in “prayerful fashion.”
“I think we were able to draw devotees into a new, albeit temporary, way of having the procession without the image,” said the priest.
“I think we were also able to process safely and orderly… and there were no major disruptions in the procession,” he added.
In his homily during Mass, Father Jun Sescon, Quiapo church rector, invited the devotees to “conversion” and into a “deeper relationship with Jesus.”
He urged everyone to turn away from sins, lies, violence, corruption and injustices, and from committing injustices.
“We must let go of these things so we can journey toward Jesus of Nazarene,” said the priest.
Many Filipinos believe touching or getting close to the statue of the Black Nazarene can lead to the healing of otherwise incurable ailments and other good fortune.
Evangeline Rugas, 59, was among the worshippers attending the open-air Mass where a replica of the icon has been on display.
She was “praying for a miracle” for her five-year-old nephew who suffers from seizures and cannot walk.
“Nothing is impossible for the Black Nazarene,” Rugas told AFP as she sat on a plastic sheet laid on the ground.
The original wooden statue was brought to the Philippines in the early 1600s when the nation was a Spanish colony.
Many Filipinos believe it got its dark color after surviving a fire aboard a ship en route from Mexico.
This year’s parade replaced the traditional frenzied procession, which used to involve hundreds of thousands of believers thronging a life-sized statue as it was pulled through the streets on a float.
One of the biggest displays of Catholic devotion in the Philippines, it was canceled for two years in a row due to the pandemic.
This year’s event was held a day before the feast of the Black Nazarene, which falls on January 9, and without the venerated statue in the hope of reducing crowd numbers and the risk of infection.
Mask-wearing devotees, some carrying candles or small replicas of the Black Nazarene, poured through narrow streets in the early hours of the morning.
Mercy Dayrit, 70, said she had prayed “day and night” to the Black Nazarene after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016.
She was declared “cancer free” last year, which she attributes to the icon.
“So many miracles happen,” Dayrit said.
In the weeks leading up to Sunday’s walk, the statue was taken to churches around the city and nearby provinces to give worshippers the chance to see and touch it in the hope of avoiding a huge crowd on the feast day. – with reports from CBCP News and AFP
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