MANILA (UPDATE)—Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle early Thursday called for peace amid mounting tension in the Middle East as he opened the Feast of Black Nazarene, which is expected to draw millions of Catholic faithful.
"Ating alalahanin na sa ilang bahagi ng ating mundo ay nag-aamba ang panganib ng karahasan at harinawa 'wag umuwi sa giyera [o] digmaan," he said in his homily before the crowd of devotees at the Quirino Grandstand.
(Let us remember that in some parts of the world, there is a threat of violence. May it not lead to war.)
The 62-year-old prelate urged the Filipino Catholics to pray for the safety of their fellow men who could be affected by the escalating conflict between the United States and Iran in the Gulf region.
"Ipanalangin natin na maging ligtas ang ating mga kapuwa sa Middle East. Humupa ang mga pagnanais na sirain ang kapuwa. Humupa ang mga hangarin na maghiganti," he said.
(Let us pray for the safety of our fellow men in the Middle East. To quell the desire to destroy one’s neighbor. To quell the intent to take vengeance.)
Hundreds of thousands of devotees turned out for the start of this year's procession of Black Nazarene, popularly known as Traslacion, which began early at around 4:15 a.m.
The blackened image of the suffering Christ, believed by devotees to hold miraculous healing powers, will traverse from Quirino Grandstand at Rizal Park in Manila to Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo.
This year's Traslacion is expected to conclude faster because of the shorter route compared to 2019 gathering that lasted 21 hours and attracted some 4 million people.
To secure the mammoth procession, where many devotees usually flock in droves to touch or get near with the Black Nazarene, thousands of police were deployed along the procession route. Mobile phone services from major telecommunication firms were also shut down.
Hundreds of volunteers from the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) were also deployed to provide medical assistance.
As of 5:24 a.m., the Manila Disaster and Risk Reduction Management Office (MDRRMO) put the crowd at the Quirino Grandstand at 130,000.
Those who joined the procession totaled to 70,000 while MDRRMO estimated the crowd at the Quiapo Church at 15,000.
Meanwhile, the PRC said they had provided medical attention to 253 people since Jan. 8. Some 243 patients were provided blood pressure consultation while 9 were treated for minor wounds as of 4:16 a.m.
In what is believed to be his final Fiesta Mass, Tagle called on the faithful to follow the mission and devotion of Christ.
"Wagas na pag-ibig, 'yan din ang ating misyon. Hindi dapat tayo maging daan ng kapahamakan o kasiraan ng kapuwa," the prelate said, who is expected to lead a powerful post in Vatican in February.
(Pure love, that's our mission. We should not bring misfortune to others.)
The ebony-hued statue was brought to Manila by friars from the Order of Augustinian Recollects on May 31, 1606.
First enshrined at the first Recollect Church in Bagumbayan, the Black Nazarene was transferred to Quiapo Church in 1787.
The image survived several disasters, such as the great fires that destroyed the Quiapo Church in 1791 and 1929 and earthquakes in 1645 and 1863.
It was in 1998 when a replica of the Black Nazarene was used in the parade due to the damage sustained by the original image.
Since then, the replica has been used in the annual feast while the original remains housed inside the church.—With a report from Jervis Manahan, ABS-CBN News