World

800,000 throng Manila's streets to touch Jesus statue

MANILA: Throngs of believers flung themselves at a historic statue of Jesus Christ as it inched through Manila yesterday for an annual procession that is one of the world's biggest displays of Catholic zeal.

Many in the crowd, which police said numbered at least 800,000, believe touching or being near the Black Nazarene can heal or grant good fortune.

Devotees massed before dawn to catch a glimpse of the statue as it was wheeled on a metal float on a 7km route through the Philippine capital's narrow streets.

"I survived a stroke because of God. I will do this every year until I am 100 years old," said 70-year-old Joaquin Bordado, who has attended the procession for decades.

Around him, people chanted, cheered and jostled for a glimpse of, or take a selfie with, the statue clad in a maroon robe and topped with a crown of thorns and cross.

Barefooted believers scramble to touch towels to the icon, named for its charred appearance. It is believed to have survived a fire in the 17th century while en route to the Philippines, which became Asia's bastion of Catholicism under 400 years as a Spanish colony.

The Red Cross reported over a hundred injuries including cuts and dizziness. Every year, hundreds are hurt and deaths are not unusual.

Critics say the 20-hour procession is a mishmash of superstition. But church officials say the practice is an expression of faith in the overwhelmingly Christian nation of 105 million. - AFP

WORLD