Residents wearing face masks and face shields to protect them from the coronavirus arrive to pray at their relatives’ graves ahead of a week-long closure of cemeteries on the annual observance of All Saints’ Day in Manila on Oct. 28. (Photo: AFP)
Government and church authorities in the Philippines have canceled Black Nazarene activities including the traslacion or solemn transfer of the image attended by millions of churchgoers in Manila.
Church rector Msgr. Ding Coronel announced on Oct. 28 that instead of the procession devotees would see the image of the Black Nazarene at a church balcony for prayer.
The decision was made to prevent further spread of coronavirus in the Philippines, he said.
“Instead of the traditional kissing of the image called pahalik [to kiss], we will replace it with pagtanaw or viewing the statue from afar. In this way devotees can still see the Black Nazarene and say their prayers,” said Msgr. Coronel in a statement.
During the pahalik devotees line for hours to kiss and touch the feet of the image.
The traslacion or grand procession is attended by millions who walk with the image barefoot for more than 14 hours.
In 2019, an estimated 3.3 million Catholics joined the procession which lasted for 16 hours. At least 251 people were injured.
Msgr. Coronel has said the image would be brought up to the church balcony some time in December.
“The pilgrim image of the Nazarene will be brought up to the balcony of the church fronting Plaza Miranda two weeks before the actual Feast Day [Jan. 9]. It will be on display for two weeks so that people will have more time to venerate,” Msgr. Coronel added.
Government authorities said this was the first time there would be no traslacion since World War II.
“It will be the first time there will be no procession after the war because we all need to be more mindful of the safety precautions and protocols against the coronavirus,” said Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso.
Domagoso has urged churchgoers and devotees to be patient and understanding if religious mass gatherings were prohibited by the government due to quarantine restrictions.
“I’d like to make an appeal to our fellow devotees of the Black Nazarene. I hope you all understand our situation. If we allow the traslacion, one hundred percent there would be mass infection [of coronavirus] among millions,” he said.
Msgr. Coronel said that although the Black Nazarene’s activities were canceled, Jesus would still hear and grant petitions from its devotees.
“I want to remind the faithful that their petitions will still be heard even if they don’t get to touch the image,” Msgr. Coronel said.
Meanwhile, devotees of the image welcomed the decision of church and government authorities.
“We will just pray inside our homes during his feast day. If we have time and if it is not crowded, perhaps we will go to Quiapo shrine to pray. Otherwise, we will just remain at home and light a candle,” devotee Jun Bartolome told UCA News.