Millions of devotees today joined the procession of the Black Nazarene, ignoring President Benigno Aquino’s warning last week of possible terrorist attacks. Monsignor Jose Clemente Ignacio, rector of Quiapo Church, said the warning could have made the faithful even more determined to attend the event which began in Rizal Park and ended at the Minor Basilica. Initial estimates put the number of participants at six to seven million. The priest admitted organizers had considered canceling this year’s event after the terror threat warning. “But the consensus was go ahead with the Mass,” said Ignacio. The presidential palace, meanwhile, defended its decision to issue the terror warning. Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said at a news briefing that as far as the government was concerned, the threat was considered “credible.” “The president felt it imperative that he should warn the public,” she said, dismissing accusations that Aquino was scare mongering. She said a temporary halt to mobile phone services in the area covered by the procession route was an additional security measure and was necessary to ensure that nothing untoward would happen during the procession. Archbishop Tagle, however, thanked Aquino for ensuring the gathering was peaceful and orderly. In his homily, Archbishop Tagle acknowledged that many among the devotees came not just to celebrate but also to bring their prayers, problems and other wishes. He also invited everyone to pray for the victims of disasters especially those affected by recent catastrophes in Mindanao. “The image of the Black Nazarene tells us how the power of God through the Holy Spirit can help us endure hardship in life,” Archbishop Tagle said.
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