'Don't judge Black Nazarene devotees'

Christian V Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 09 2017 08:24 PM | Updated as of Jan 10 2017 02:39 AM

Devotees scramble to touch the Black Nazarene as it passes under the Quezon Bridge on Monday during the annual Traslacion in Manila. The annual Traslacion commemorates the first procession when the Black Nazarene was transferred from Intramuros to the Basilica Minor of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo, Manila. Fernando Sepe, Jr, ABS-CBN News

Annual Traslacion frenzy straddles devotion, fanaticism

MANILA -- The centuries-old devotion to the Black Nazarene, credited for a number of personal miracles, should also be an opportunity for further religious instruction to keep some devotees from falling into "unguided fanaticism," a Catholic priest said Monday.

Millions of Filipinos identify with the image of Jesus Christ carrying a wooden cross because they "could relate to a God who suffers like all of us and yet can carry, not only his own burden, but our burdens as well," said Father Jojo Zerrudo, catechetical director of the Diocese of Cubao.

Zerrudo cautioned against "misjudging" the devotion simply by looking at the barefoot crowd struggling to get close to the image during the annual "traslacion," which commemorates its transfer to its present location at the minor basilica in Quiapo, Manila.

"But when we enter the heart and the mind of the devotee, suddenly what they do seems to make sense," he told ABS-CBN News.

Zerrudo warned against "uncatechized" devotion where the "tendency would be to relate only to the statue itself without understanding who this God-made-man is."

"If that were the case, then it might fall into an unguided fanaticism," he said.

Rommel Lopez, 42, a devotee for more than a decade, acknowledged that others might misinterpret the devotion as "idolatry" because "they see only appearances, not the fire in the hearts of people."

"We're not devotees of the wooden image. We are devotees of what this image represents, our Lord Jesus Christ," he told ABS-CBN News.

Lopez urged fellow devotees to help instruct others, not only to deepen their faith, but also their understanding of the Black Nazarene devotion.

He recalled a barefoot procession of young men wearing t-shirts with images of the Black Nazarene in Caloocan. 

Lopez called the attention of the parish priest because the procession had no replica of the Black Nazarene and the men were "just talking and not actually praying," he said. 

"It also falls on our shoulders, the older ones and those who know more and of course, our Church leaders, to guide the younger devotees," he said.