Due to the coronavirus pandemic, civil and ecclesial authorities in the Philippines have agreed to cancel the Black Nazarene celebration in 2021, which gathers millions of churchgoers in Manila each January.
Known as the traslacion, the 19-hour procession through the streets of Manila takes place each year on Jan. 9. Millions of pilgrims take part in the 7-kilometer procession.
The statue of the Black Nazarene is a kneeling Christ cloaked in a maroon robe and crowned with thorns. The life-sized statue bears a cross.
It was brought to the Philippines by Augustinian missionary priests in 1606. The statue is believed to have acquired its black color after being partially burnt when the ship carrying it caught fire on a voyage from Mexico.
Since then it has survived fires that destroyed its host church twice, two earthquakes, floods from numerous typhoons and bombings during World War II. The image is normally enshrined in Manila’s Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene, popularly known as the Quiapo Church. Many miracles have been reported in connection with veneration of the statue.
Msgr. Hernando Coronel, rector of Quiapo Church, has said the Black Nazarene will be displayed on the church’s balcony from two weeks before the feast, and that instead of the procession, pilgrims may instead gather for prayer and to view the image at a safe distance.
“I want to remind the faithful that their petitions will still be heard even if they don’t get to touch the image,” the priest added.
Prior to the pandemic, Quiapo Church was almost open 24 hours, holding continuous Masses and healing services during the day and housing homeless people at night. Every year, up to 18 million devotees have taken part in the annual procession and the other festivities.
The procession is deeply beloved in the country, but is also controversial. Barefoot pilgrims eager to touch the Black Nazarene statue shove and climb over one another, resulting each year in injuries and sometimes deaths.