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Filipinos crowd capital for huge Catholic parade

Thousands in Manila Celebrate Black Nazarene Feast

MANILA, Philippines (AP) - Hundreds of thousands of Filipino Catholics jammed the streets of the capital Thursday to parade a centuries-old black statue of Jesus Christ in a raucous annual event that took on a special significance by remembering the victims of a monster typhoon.

About 6,000 police were deployed to secure the massive, daylong pilgrimage - a security nightmare in a country still battling Muslim extremists and widespread crimes. More than 600 devotees, many of whom walked barefoot under the sun, were treated for minor injuries, according to the local Red Cross.

Officials said up to 12 million were expected to join though the figures were difficult to confirm.

The wooden statue of Christ, crowned with thorns and bearing a cross, is believed to have been brought from Mexico to Manila on a galleon in 1606 by Spanish missionaries. The ship that carried it caught fire, but the charred statue survived and was named the Black Nazarene. Some believe the statue's survival from fires and earthquakes through the centuries, and intense bombings during World War II, is a testament to its mystical powers.

In Mass before the start of the procession at Manila's seaside Rizal Park, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle urged nearly half a million devotees to pray for the victims of disasters like Typhoon Haiyan, which on Nov. 8 killed more than 6,100 people, left nearly 1,800 others missing and displaced more than 4 million mostly poor villagers.

The killer wind and tsunami-like storm surges leveled entire villages and damaged or destroyed more than a million houses. Bodies were still being found in mounds of debris months later.

Housewife Jackelyn Cometa said she and her husband joined the procession each of the last 12 years to pray for good health and a better life, but she came with a different plea Thursday. Her 2-year-old niece remained missing in the storm while two cousins were killed in her father's hometown of Palo in worst-hit central Leyte province.

"I'm praying that my niece be found, even her body," said Cometa, who lives in a Manila slum.

The Mass at a grandstand abruptly ended when swarms of devotees breached through a security cordon and pushed away iron railings in an attempt to get close to the Black Nazarene, which nearly got knocked down in the melee. Police restored order but several devotees were injured.

Authorities blocked a main road near Manila's City Hall with container vans to prevent participants from passing through a traditional route across a bridge, where cracks have been found. Huge crowds pushed a container van aside, insisting to pass through the old route, prompting officials to deploy riot police to divert the procession away from danger.

The spectacle reflects the country's unique brand of Catholicism, which includes folk superstitions, in Asia's largest Catholic nation. Dozens of Filipinos have themselves nailed to crosses on Good Friday each year in another tradition to emulate Christ's suffering.

A young French tourist, Jean-Baptiste Guillemot, marveled as thousands of devotees walked barefoot past him, pressing forward to touch, kiss or wipe towels on the Black Nazarene. Others struggled to pull rickety carriages with heavy replicas of the statue.

"This is very powerful," he said. "It's really, really religious ... I didn't know it was this much."

Two years ago, authorities jammed cellphone services and put air force helicopters on standby after President Benigno Aquino III warned that terrorists might target the gathering. No such threat was monitored Thursday.

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hoofy53 January 09 2014 at 6:23 PM

Does anybody find it coincidental that the percentage of Gays in America and the percentage of Atheists are even at 3% ??? And they are also the most hateful 3% of the country on these comment strings !! If they are not happy with their choices then why continue down that path and project your hate for yourself on others !!

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Martha January 09 2014 at 10:56 AM

Faith Humility Love Compassion - Life without these things are not life
I am with you Maxnewman18 100%

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rtheryoung January 09 2014 at 10:25 AM

Would you rather that these religious people pay hommage to Jesus Christ through respect for an icon and through prayer, or riot in the streets and become terrorists and kill non believers? Their
lives apparently have more meaning due to their faith and belief in God. If your life has more meaning without a belief in God that's your decision, and I feel sorry for you.

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1 reply
d.slapps rtheryoung January 09 2014 at 10:31 AM

strictly says in scripture its wrong to worship other "icons" its not a matter of belief its a matter how this world tries to twist and turn the book into something else

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3 replies
Larry January 09 2014 at 9:55 AM

Would never happen in the US. It would be discouraged. Permit refused.
Now, IF it were an illegal immigrant rally, or a BLT (yeah, I know, but try to have a sense of humor. No? Not surprised) rights parade - different story...THESE are the favored people by the regime.

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1 reply
crawleri Larry January 09 2014 at 10:49 AM

I love when people have the ability to speak the truth.

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maxnewman18 January 09 2014 at 10:37 AM

This article once again proves the radical atheists wrong. Faith, religion and belief in God is still prevelant today, and the vast majority of humans believe in God and are faithful to a religion (whichever one: Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Taoism...). The fact of the matter is RELIGION IS ALIVE AND WILL NEVER DIE.

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1 reply
crazy ray maxnewman18 January 09 2014 at 11:01 AM

This is not a good reference for religion. Millions of people willing to sacrifice their identities for a great lie in the after life? How pathetic.

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2 replies
maxnewman18 crazy ray January 09 2014 at 4:33 PM

You're actually an idiot

Flag 0 rate up
Mary crazy ray January 09 2014 at 6:34 PM

I am sure if you were in one of the tower on 9/11 you would not be prayinf for you life you would have just sat in the chair and thought of well

Flag +1 rate up
Chuck January 09 2014 at 4:23 PM

It's not a parade it's a procession.

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acvrear January 09 2014 at 12:32 PM

Christians and Catholics 97%, atheists 3%.
Why do we have to cater to this negligible minimal minority of atheists?

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2 replies
sadiemae1214 acvrear January 09 2014 at 12:44 PM

You aren't "catering" to anyone. Athiests ask nothing from you except to honor the separation of church and state.

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1 reply
Art Naranjo sadiemae1214 January 09 2014 at 1:42 PM

There is no State Religion. That's the meaning of separation of church and state.

Flag +9 rate up
mrhappy_james acvrear January 09 2014 at 2:20 PM

Pew Researchon religion in the US:
Catholic = 78.4%
Other = 4.7%
Unafilliated = 16.1 (includes Atheists @1.6%)
Don't know/didn't respond = .8%

Thank goodness in the US everyone has equal rights to their beliefs. Which means Catholics rights can't be greater others rights. This is often seen during Xmas when local governments pay for and display nativity scenes on the town hall lawn, and don't pay for and give others equal access. All are allowed or none and governments shouldn't be buying any religious items at all. That's equality. Sorry you don't believe in equality and separation of church and state.

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ffejflow January 09 2014 at 11:38 AM

Wow, what a wonderful celebration of unity in faith. It really inspired me...as the faith of Filipinos always inspires me. I haven't said a rosary in several months, but I am going to say one before I go to bed in solidarity with these people, for those still struggling from the typhoon and also that the faith of Filipino Catholics may endure and be strengthened! Special hello to friends and family of Theodore G Manalo.

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al pambuena January 09 2014 at 2:14 PM

Christians are being persecuted all over the world, and in the united states....its about time that a show of Christian faith and believers started coming out to show unity and freedom of worship. GOD has become a controversial term in the united states, when it is the basic principal of the founding of this nation.....Christmas and other religious holidays are celebrated around the world, in one form or another, but in the united states the efforts and movements to ban the essence of what Christmas is has become a traditional and pathetic mark on our culture, and we must fight back against this cancer that affects us.

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2 replies
BRUCE al pambuena January 09 2014 at 3:07 PM

In a Godless country, the evil of Satan has flourished and it will never be as it once was. Man made religion has turned the youth of this nation against the true Christians that try to follow the teachings of the Christ, and we are hated. In it's place they have come to embelish violence and shun goodness. Rather than helping their fellow man, they seek only to rob and harm. We have been told that in the last days it will be like that of the days of Noah before the flood.....and here we are. All we are capable of doing now is to persevere even unto the end. Save as many as you can and keep spreading the good news as we are told to do, but be wary as there are many that detest us and seek only to do harm.

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maxnewman18 al pambuena January 09 2014 at 4:32 PM

Religion will never die in America and we will never become an atheist nation.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
edspot January 09 2014 at 11:39 AM

If you state that its 'iconism', you are simply proving your ignorance of the faith and the Church. Do not ridicule what you do not understand.

Flag Reply +11 rate up
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