Feast of Black Nazarene passes peacefully
Millions join procession in Manila
This year's Feast of the Black Nazarene, attended by an estimated six to eight million people today, has passed off "generally peacefully," authorities say.
Initial reports said some 200 people were injured, compared with about 700 last year, as devotees tried to get near the carriage carrying the statue of the Black Nazarene in the annual procession to Quiapo Church in Manila.
The feast takes place every January 9, and is considered one of the most spectacular religious events in the Philippines.
It is celebrated by millions of devotees who believe that the centuries-old wooden life-size statue of Jesus Christ, which was brought to the Philippines from Mexico by Augustinian friars in 1606, is miraculous.
The statue is believed to have turned black after surviving a fire on the ship which brought it to the country.
Gwendolyn Pang, head of the Philippine National Red Cross, said most of the injuries this year were minor although several devotees collapsed due to heat exhaustion during the procession.
Devotees, many carrying small towels or handkerchiefs, try to squeeze their way to the front of the crowd to touch the statue or grab the rope used to pull the carriage carrying the image to ask favors from God or give thanks for granted ones.
At last year's feast, the procession of the image lasted more than 22 hours.
More than 3,000 police officers provided security while the Metro Manila Development Authority said 1,000 of its personnel helped keep order.
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, in his homily before the religious procession, called on Filipinos "to value the sacredness of life" amid reports of killings in recent days around the capital.
"There are a lot of reports about killings. Let us be witnesses to the truth regarding the sanctity of life," the prelate said.
Political leaders, meanwhile, urged Black Nazarene devotees to match their faith with hard work.
"We should not just rely on prayer but also do something to make our dreams come true," said House Deputy Minority Leader Mitos Magsaysay.
Representative Sonny Angara, chairman of the House Committee on Higher Education, said the annual feast is a "symbol of hope and optimism" for Filipinos "despite and in spite of all the trials and ordeals that we face."
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