A Manila procession of the life-sized wooden statue of the Black Nazarene drew about seven million Filipinos on Jan. 9, a higher turnout than last year.
Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales of Manila explained how participants identify their daily struggles with the wounds and tribulations experienced by Jesus.
“The image of the Black Nazarene is the image of suffering, struggling that is why people like Him… they see in the cross a picture of them,” Cardinal Rosales told reporters.
But he also lamented that the wealthy and the influential have failed to help the poor.
“The rich, unjust people increase their suffering,” he said after the 6 a.m. Mass at the Quirino Grandstand, according to CBCP News.
The cardinal said that real change will only happen if people show concern for others.
“If you want to show concern to others you have to deny yourself, sacrifice yourself, discipline yourself. Without these, I doubt if there’s going to be any development,” he said. “Let us ask for God’s blessings, let us help one another, let us help every family, let us help every parish, and let us help the country,” he said.
The procession began at 8 a.m. at the Quirino Grandstand and carried the statue to its home in Quiapo Church. The march lasted 16 hours.
Manila police Chief Director Nicanor Bartolome said the event was “generally peaceful” but about 708 people were injured, an increase from 246 last year. Common injuries included blisters, lacerations and punctures inflicted as barefoot devotees tried to get close to the statute. Others suffered from asthma and high blood pressure due to hunger and dehydration.
Some of those who touch the image have reported miraculous happenings.
The cross-carrying statue of the Black Nazarene has been housed at the Quiapo Church since 1787. It was brought to Manila by a Spanish priest in 1607 on board a ship. The ship caught fire, which burned the image.
The image of the Black Nazarene is used in procession on its feast day in January and also on Good Friday.
Sunday’s observance marked the 404th Feast of the Black Nazarene.