Millions of Catholics join Black Nazarene procession in Philippines

FILE Millions of devotees are expected to participate in the annual procession of the Black Nazarene on January 9

Millions of Catholics join Black Nazarene procession in Philippines

A massive crowd of mostly barefoot Filipino Catholics has joined an annual procession of a centuries-old black statue of Jesus Christ under extra-tight security after the Philippines came under a disastrous pro-Islamic State group attack past year.

Men surrounded the carriage that was pulled by ropes, while the crowd waved towels and handkerchiefs in a sign of praise to the life-sized image of Jesus kneeling with a cross on his shoulder.

Devotees will dress in maroon clothing for the festival and will also walk barefoot alongside the carriage, done as an act of penance for Jesus who is believed to have walked barefoot to his own crucifixion.

"People will suffer sickness, old age.so pain and suffering will always be there", Monsignor Sabino Vengco, a prominent priest told CNN Philippines.

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The statue was passing through streets of old Manila lined with bystanders yesterday afternoon en route to its home in the Quiapo church in a lengthy parade that usually takes 20 hours or more. 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 Manila procession would be peaceful, said Oscar Albayalde, the capital's police chief. Local media reported this year's celebrations may draw 17 million devotees nationwide.

Officials said that due to the dense crowd, they have extended medical assistance to more than 1,000 devotees - about 600 from the Philippine Red Cross and close to 500 from the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) through their first aid stations set up along the route of the procession.

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