Crowd chaos cuts short Black Nazarene Mass
Cardinal Tagle beats hasty retreat as devotees surge to touch statue
As many as 12 million devotees jopined this year's procession through the streets of Manila (Photo: Vincent Go)
Manila archbishop Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle was forced to cut short a Mass during the annual procession of the Black Nazarene on Thursday.
The archbishop, along with other dignitaries, including Manila mayor Joseph Estrada, was bundled from the stage in the capital’s Luneta Park when dozens of eager devotees burst through barricades to try and touch the revered statue of Christ.
Security officials said the crowd ignored repeated warnings to stay back before overpowering them.
The life-sized, dark-skinned wooden sculpture of the Black Nazarene is held to be miraculous by Filipino Catholics.
The procession, held every January 9, is one of the most spectacular religious events in the country.
Authorities estimated some 12 million people attended this year’s procession which lasted about 18 hours. Health officials later said an estimated 1,600 people were injured.
Archbishop Angel Lagdameo of Jaro expressed disappointment over the unruly behavior of some devotees. “That is not genuine religion. It can be improved,” he said.
“There’s a lot more that we need to teach our devotees,” said Monsignor Ignacio Clemente of Quaipo Church in Manila, home to the Black Nazarene shrine.
Before the procession began, Tagle urged devotees to "translate love and devotion" into helping the poor and in fighting corruption.
"We could not follow Christ if our minds are always filled with the greed for money, more so, if we could swindle and abuse our brothers and sisters," he told them.
He also urged the devotees, who later walked barefoot in procession through the streets of Manila, not to forget the victims of calamities.
"If we truly pray, if we are truly united with the Lord, we will not forget our brothers and sisters," he said, referring to all those affected by Super Typhoon Haiyan, the Bohol earthquake, and the fighting in Zamboanga which killed hundreds and displaced thousands more.
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Love will conquer sin, love will conquer pride, he said