Philippines holds first Black Nazarene mass post-Covid

Manila, Jan 9 (EFE).- Hundreds of thousands of Filipinos on Monday attended a mass to commemorate the Black Nazarene, while the traditional procession through the streets of Manila was canceled for the third consecutive year due to the pandemic.

Authorities on Saturday imposed a series of measures to limit the large crowds attending the mass, which before the pandemic would attract up to 1.5 million people.

Nearly 250,000 Catholic devotees attended Monday’s mass at the Quiapo Church, also known as the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene.

“It feels different this year, I didn’t enjoy it like we used to,” Minda Arlos, 60, told epa-efe as she left the basilica in Quiapo – one of the Philippine capital’s poorest neighborhoods – where the famous wooden carving of the Black Nazarene is kept.

Traditionally, massive crowds would follow the religious icon as it moved through the streets of Manila at a snail’s pace, in one of the largest processions in the world. Many Filipino Catholics consider the Black Nazarene to be divine and can cure disease.

The carving, which dates back to the 16th century, the first of the more than three centuries of Spanish colonization of the Philippines, arrived in Manila on May 31, 1606 on a ship from Mexico and, according to legend, caught fire near the archipelago.

The heat of the flames gave the icon of Christ its characteristic dark color, according to popular belief, although another version says the distinctive skin tone reflected that of the Mexican sculptor who created it.

During the procession on Monday, which was canceled in 2021 and 2022 due to the pandemic, dozens of faithful fainted from the heat of the crowd and several were injured in their attempt to touch the Black Nazarene. EFE


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