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Hundreds attend Black Nazarene procession

Influence of Catholic Church seen at Manila’s Quiapo

Gulf News

Manila: The influence of the Catholic Church in the Philippines was revealed once more as seven million devotees attended the first of a two-day yearly procession of the Black Nazarene (Black Jesus) at Manila’s Quiapo district, analysts said.

Georgia de la Cruz, together with some seven million devotees, stayed overnight on Monday at the Quirino Grandstand on central Luneta Park on Tuesday and was ahead of a long line of people at midday who kissed and wiped with a white handkerchief the feet of the Black Nazarene for good luck, good health, and prosperity.

“I am here to thank the Lord for my mother’s healing from cancer,” said de la Cruz, during a mass held at dawn, the start of the annual feast for Black Nazarene, known to Filipino devotees for its back bent by a heavy cross. The dark wooden Christ, made by an unknown Mexican sculptor 405 years ago, was burned on board a ship when brought to Manila by a Recollect priest in 1607.

De la Cruz’ husband Hansel said, “For years, I have been asking for money, house, and more prosperity from the Black Nazarene.” They carried food packages and other paraphernalia needed in the pilgrimage by the bay, where the Catholic Church held homilies, prayers, and sermons.

Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle talked about responsibilities of the Catholic Church and its devotees to God and country, in that order, as he celebrated an early mass at the Quirino Grandstand.

“We listen for instructions and reprimands,” said the couple, referring to the prescriptions of the Catholic Church on how poor devotees should handle the implementation of the controversial health law that allows the government to subsidise socialised family planning programmes with the use of artificial and natural birth control methods.

“We will join the last part of the pilgrimage, however dangerous it is” they said, referring to another holy event, at 7.30am on Wednesday when the Black Nazarene, atop a big carriage is pulled by male devotees, and brought to Manila’s 28 commercial streets before entering its home, the Quiapo Church, done after 15 to 20 hours of procession.

“For the future, we want to own a replica of the Black Nazarene, like hundreds of other devotees,” said the de la Cruz couple. “This year, wieners of replicas of the Black Nazarene have been allowed several streets for their respective procession,” said Father Ricardo Valencia Jr, head of Quiapo Church’s events committee.

Averting rowdy events at the pilgrimage, Msgr. Jose Clemente Ignacio, rector of the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene, said, “We have coordinated with local government agencies for safe celebration.” Some 3,000 policemen were deployed for the whole event.

Almost all streets that crisscross Manila were affected by the event which started on Monday, prompting authorities to reroute traffic lanes on Sunday.

“We feel the power of the Catholic Church every time the feast of the Black Nazarene is celebrated,” said political analyst, Pastor Alfred Crespo, who belongs to a non-Catholic Christian group.

As a result, several groups called on traditional politicians not to join the procession of the Black Nazarene to campaign for the May 2013 elections.

Reacting to politicians’ propaganda on tarpaulins that have cluttered the streets of Manila, Edwin Alejo, EcoWaste Coalition coordinator, said in a statement, “Tarpaulins are a nuisance that can confuse the (Black Nazarene’s) spiritual message of unity.”

“(They) block the public view of the procession, harm the trees and mess up the bridges, electric cables, lampposts and structures where the tarps are usually fastened or hung,” said Alejo who called politicians taking advantage of the event as “tarpaulitics,” which also refers to “tradpol”, short for traditional politicians.