Black Nazarene: Philippines holds major religious procession amid tight anti-terror security

The statue is believed by some to have healing powers 

Tuesday 09 January 2018 14:45 GMT
Thousands praise and touch 'Black Nazarene' statue believed to have healing powers

Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Manila to worship a centuries old statue of Jesus Christ known as the Black Nazarene.

As it slowly weaved its way through the Philippines' capital the huge crowds waved towels and handkerchiefs in a sign of praise to the life-sized model of Jesus kneeling with a cross on his shoulder, which is believed to have healing powers.

The statue was placed on top of a carriage and slowly pulled through the thronging masses by a group of devotees. After setting off at dawn, it arrived at the city's Quiapo Church in the early evening, after stopping at 12 prayer stations en route.

It is one of the biggest annual religious festivals in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation.

“People will suffer sickness, old pain and suffering will always be there," Monsignor Sabino Vengco, a prominent priest told CNN Philippines. “There will always be a need for someone, and that is exactly Jesus.”

Security was tight along the route of the parade. Officials had warned that extremists could attempt to avenge the death of Islamist militant leader Mohammad Jaafar Maguid, who was killed by police last week.

More than 4,000 police and soldiers were deployed to ensure the procession was be peaceful, said Manila's police chief, Oscar Albayalde.

Snipers and bomb squads backed by a surveillance helicopter and drones, were all used to ensure the annual procession passed off safely.

Authorities imposed a gun ban and cellphone signals were jammed sporadically along the vicinity of the procession.

Concrete barriers blocked the procession route partly to prevent the kind of attacks that have been witnessed in Europe, where Islamic radicals have rammed vehicles into crowds, a military official said.

Processions and other religious rites were also held elsewhere in the country of 105 million people to celebrate the feast.

Citing police estimates, local media said this year’s festivities could draw a total of 17 million devotees nationwide, some seeking healing for illnesses and forgiveness for sins and others expressing gratitude for blessings.

Around 380,000 people were in the Manila procession, according to estimates by the police.

The Philippine Red Cross said it had assisted more than 600 devotees who were feeling unwell, or suffered injuries during the early stages of the parade as the crowd swelled and many clamoured to reach out towards the icon.

Agencies contributed to this report

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