MANILA—President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday appealed to the Catholic Church to forgo this year's Black Nazarene procession in the capital and other related activities, as COVID-19 cases climbed.
Duterte noted the annual Traslacion, which transports a replica of Jesus Christ's 400-year-old ebony statue to Quiapo Church, often draws a million devotees.
"Kung nakinig ang Roman Catholic Church, I am now appealing to you to forgo and cancel all physical gatherings, including the procession and the celebration of Mass sa Church, because marami ’yan sila, there are millions of devotees there and you cannot just be complacent about the transmission of the disease," Duterte said in a taped address.
(If the Roman Catholic Church is listening, I am now appealing to you to forgo and cancel all physical gatherings, including the procession and the celebration of Mass sa Church, because there are many, millions of devotees there and you cannot just be complacent about the transmission of the disease.)
"Sana maintindihan ako ng Roman Catholic that all gatherings are not allowed. Never mind about power government, this is just an appeal to the hierarchy of the church, to look at it on a broader understanding, that it would really be a super spreader."
(I hope the Catholic Church would understand me, that all gatherings are not allowed.)
The President said he would send a formal letter to Church leaders.
"I apologize in advance and I beg your full understanding of what we have discussed every Talk to the People. We have stressed that our job really is to come up with critical decisions to protect public health and public safety," Duterte said.
"Ako man, I believe in God, walang problema ’yan. But I have to do things which I hate to do. Kailangan gawin ko because trabaho ko. And this is not my decision, this is culled from the so many views and opinions from several doctors."
(I believe in God, too, there's no problem with that. But I have to do things which I hate to do. I need to do them because it's my job.)
The National Task Force Against COVID-19, in a “resolution recommending activities” for the Feast of the Black Nazarene, said the Traslacion “is suspended.”
“The Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene of Quiapo Churchiest will be closed on 07-09 January 2022. No Holy Mass shall be physically conducted on these dates,” reads the resolution.
“All Holy Masses will be aired online nationwide,” it added.
The Philippines, with 100 million people, is the bastion of Roman Catholicism in Asia, with 8 in 10 people subscribing to the faith. The religion was brought by Spanish colonizers in the 1500s.
First brought to Manila by Augustinian priests from Mexico in 1607, the Nazarene statue is believed to have acquired its color after it was partially burnt when the galleon carrying it caught fire.
During the Traslacion, which starts before sunrise and often lasts for 24 hours, devotees wave white handkerchiefs and shout "viva!" (long live), with some scrambling to touch the image.