Many believe that a historic Jesus statue, paraded every year, brings good fortune
Throngs of believers flung themselves at a historic statue of Jesus Christ as it was paraded through the Philippine capital on Wednesday in an annual festival that is one of the world’s biggest shows of Catholic zeal. Many in the crowd, which police said numbered more than a million, believe touching the Black Nazarene or being in its presence can heal the sick or grant good fortune.
Devotees massed before dawn to catch a glimpse of the life-sized statue as it was wheeled on a metal float along a seven-km route through Manila’s streets. “I survived a stroke because of him (God). I will do this every year until I am 100 years old,” said Joaquin Bordado, 70. Around him people chanted Viva Nazareno (Long live Nazarene), cheered and jostled for a glimpse of, or selfie with, the cross-bearing statue, cloaked in a maroon robe and topped with a crown of thorns. Believers, barefoot as a sign of penitence, scramble over one another to touch towels to the icon. It is believed to have survived a fire in the 17th century while en route to the Philippines, which became Asia’s bastion of Catholicism under 400 years as a Spanish colony.
Critics say the procession is a mish-mash of superstition. But Church officials say the practice is a vibrant expression of faith. “If you are an outsider, you will not hear, see or feel that faith. You will only see a very unruly or chaotic situation,” said Father Danichi Hui, a priest at the procession’s destination, Quiapo church. “But inside there is a rhythm of peace. There is a serenity,” he said.