Black Nazarene procession attracts millions of Catholic faithful in Manila

Gerard Carreon and Basilio Sepe

The Black Nazarene begins its procession through the streets of Manila, Jan. 9, 2024. [Gerard Carreon/BenarNews]


Catholic faithful jostle to catch a glimpse of the Black Nazarene in Manila, Jan. 9, 2024. [Basilio Sepe/BenarNews]


Devotees reach out to grab the ropes used to pull the carriage carrying the statue, Jan. 9, 2024. [Basilio Sepe/BenarNews]


A devotee kisses the bottom tip of the Black Nazarene’s cross as it is carried through the streets of Manila, Jan. 9, 2024. [Basilio Sepe/BenarNews]


A Catholic man wipes the glass of the carriage carrying the Black Nazarene during the religious procession which returned to the streets of Manila following three years of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jan. 9, 2024. [Jam Sta Rosa/AFP]


A devotee rests while waiting for the procession of the Black Nazarene to begin in Manila, Jan. 9, 2024. [Lisa Marie David/Reuters]


People climb up on the carriage carrying the Black Nazarene in Manila, Jan. 9, 2024. [Basilio Sepe/BenarNews]


Women rest while waiting for the Black Nazarene procession in Manila, Jan. 9, 2024. [Lisa Marie David/Reuters]

Millions of Catholic faithful took to the streets of Manila on Tuesday for the first time since a pandemic broke out in 2020 to celebrate a procession venerating a centuries-old statue of Jesus Christ thought to be miraculous.

Authorities estimated that 3 million people took part as they crowded to get close and touch the statue known as the Black Nazarene. The march began at dawn and lasted for 15 hours.

Frenzied barefoot devotees jostled to get near a carriage transporting the statue, as it wound its way through streets of the Philippine capital jam-packed with the faithful in Asia’s only majority-Catholic country. Many jostled with each other in an attempt to kiss the tip of the cross that poked out of the statue’s glass encasement. 

BenarNews journalists reported that thousands of police and medical volunteers were on duty during the event.

The event is considered one of Asia’s major Catholic events, but the last three gatherings of the annual procession – in 2021, 2022 and 2023 – were canceled over fears of a surge in coronavirus infections. New this year was a glass box covering all but the bottom tip of the statue’s cross.

The wooden Black Nazarene is believed to have been carved in the 17th century and was saved from a fire aboard a ship that brought it here in 1606 when the country was a Spanish colony. The statue’s name comes from it being blackened in the blaze during the trans-Pacific crossing from Mexico.

The Nazarene is credited with keeping the Quiapo Church in Manila safe over four centuries that saw the building survive fires, earthquakes and fighting during World War II. 

“Beyond the extraordinary expressions of reverence that we see on display during this event, the festivities show us the love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ who willingly offered Himself to make us whole once more,” President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said in a statement.

He described it as a “magnificent celebration” of the Catholic faith.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.