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Black Nazarene Feast Goes Online

Black Nazarene Feast Goes Online
Devotees touching a replica of the Black Nazarene on display along Ludovico street in Quiapo on Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022. Photo By Edd Gumban

For the first time, Filipino Catholics saw what could be the most somber celebration of the Feast of the Black Nazarene, without the “Traslacion” and without devotees making their way to Quiapo Church in Manila on Sunday, Jan. 9.

About 2,000 police officers deployed in three shifts since Friday night, Jan. 7, made sure all the roads to Quiapo Church were closed and that the few Black Nazarene devotees who tried to pay homage were turned back.

Brig. Gen. Leo Francisco, Manila Police District (MPD) director, told listeners of dzBB on Sunday not to attempt to go to Quiapo since all the feast day masses were being held online because of the severity of COVID-19 transmissions in Metro Manila.

Likewise, all festivities related to the feast of the Sto. Niño in Tondo and Pandacan this week are also canceled except for online masses, Francisco said.

In Malacañang, President Duterte called for unity and continued prayers as Filipino Catholics who revere the image of the Black Nazarene go through difficult times of this pandemic with the rapid spread of variants of COVID-19.

“Although we may not be able to take part in the usual Traslacion activities that have marked the celebration for centuries, let us keep on demonstrating our faith by praying for our country’s recovery and for humanity’s complete healing, especially from the ill effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Duterte said in a statement.

“As a predominantly Catholic nation, may we remain united in spirit and in truth as we continue to build a future that is truly blessed with peace, prosperity, love and goodwill for all,” he said.

The transfer of the image of the Black Nazarene from its original site in Intramuros to the Saint John the Baptist Church (now the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo) on Jan. 9, 1787 has been traditionally reenacted through the Traslacion by hundreds of thousands of faithful lining up the streets.

While the COVID-19 situation does not allow such a superspreader event, the President enjoined the nation to treat the venerated religious event as “a precious time for every devotee to understand the value of suffering and its saving grace.”

Last week, Duterte appealed to the leadership of the Catholic Church to cancel all physical gatherings related to this year’s celebration of the Feast of the Black Nazarene because of the Omicron-driven COVID-19 surge.

The Quiapo Church has been closed from Jan. 7 to 9 to prevent millions of devotees of the Black Nazarene from converging on its grounds.

While this is the first time that no public mass was held to celebrate the feast, Manila Archbishop Jose Cardinal Advincula said in his online Sunday homily that the Black Nazarene is the one visiting those who are sick, suffering and under quarantine.

“He is able to enter our hearts, strengthen our hope. He is with us and unites us in love,” Advincula said, noting that the revered image of Christ is also one with the weary health workers.

With the theme “Bakit kayo natatakotWala pa ba kayong pananalig? (Why do you fear? Have you still no faith?),” the feast also coincides with the Catholic celebration of the Baptism of Jesus Christ.

Advincula said Jesus’ baptism by St. John the Baptist in the muddy waters of the River Jordan showed his willingness to be one in suffering with the people.

“There is no human suffering that Jesus does not understand,” said the prelate, expounding on this truth whether it be sickness and weariness this pandemic, the hardships of the poor and the hungry, or the longings of overseas Filipino workers.

With all the sufferings in the country, the cardinal asked devotees of the Black Nazarene to be like Jesus – his image kneeling under the weight of the cross in prayer – to open their hearts, be grateful and give help where help is needed.

When Jesus, garbed in clothes fit for a king, stood up, Advincula said it symbolized victory over sin and violence. It is in that spirit that the Black Nazarene continues to guide his devotees in continuing their journey in life, he said.

The MPD director also assured the public that only police without COVID-19 symptoms have been deployed to secure the vicinity around Quiapo Church. – With Helen Flores, Evelyn Macairan