Miraculous statue in the Philippines: hundreds of thousands of worshipers gather
Steph Deschamps / January 9, 2021
Hundreds of thousands of Catholic worshipers flocked to a church in Manila on Saturday hoping to spot a statue of Jesus Christ known for its miracles, despite restrictions imposed by the coronavirus outbreak.
Ignoring authorities' demands for them to stay at home, worshipers, wearing masks, gathered along the avenue leading to Quiapo Church in Manila, where 15 Masses had been given since dawn in the in honor of the feast of the Black Nazarene, a statue of Jesus Christ carrying his cross, kept in the basilica of the same name.
People lined up to enter or followed from the square the Masses broadcast on giant screens outside.
these scenes contrast with the crowd that usually accompanies these processions attracting hundreds of thousands of worshipers all seeking to touch the statue, convinced that it can heal the sick.
The life-size statue was brought to the Philippines at the beginning of the 17th century under Spanish colonization. Blackened according to legend by the smoke of a fire on the boat that transported it from Mexico, it usually travels the crowded streets of the capital, but the authorities have preferred to suppress this procession this year because of the epidemic, a first in decades.
And this time the faithful had to content themselves with looking, and no longer touching, the statue placed out of reach to avoid contamination. I'm so happy with what I see now, said George Arevalo, 32, after attending mass, limited to 400 people to respect the rules of physical distancing.
Arevalo said he touched the statue for the first time in 2017, saying his gesture enabled his wife with epilepsy to deliver a healthy child without problems.
The risk of contagion by the coronavirus in a country where nearly 500,000 people have been infected, also did not frighten Marlene Ordiales, 58, who assured that the black Nazarene was protecting her.
I don't care about the pandemic, I'm in it, she told AFP before entering the church.
Thousands of police were deployed to ensure social distancing rules. According to Manila Police Chief General Leo Francisco, hundreds of thousands of people had flocked by mid-afternoon.
In the weeks leading up to Saturday's big day, the statue had toured several churches in Manila to give worshipers the opportunity to see it, in a country where some 80% of the population is Catholic.