[PHOTO - The revered image of the Black Nazarene takes center stage this Sunday as millions converge on Quiapo Church in Manila to honor the antique image of Jesus Christ that most devotees profess to have worked miracles in their lives. (Photo by ALI VICOY)MANILA, Philippines]

MANILA, JANUARY 10, 2011 (BULLETIN) By CHRISTINA I. HERMOSO and LESLIE ANN G. AQUINO - Millions of devotees from around the country are expected to join Sunday’s traditional grand annual procession of the Black Nazarene (Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno), marking the 404th celebration of one the country’s most spectacular and highly anticipated religious events.

The grand procession that will bring the miraculous sacred image from the Quirino Grandstand in Rizal Park back to the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene (Quiapo Church or St. John the Baptist Parish) is expected to begin at 8 a.m.this Sunday, following the 6 a.m. concelebrated mass to be celebrated by Manila Archbishop Gaudencio B. Cardinal Rosales. It will be the fourth time since 2007 that the grand procession will take off from Rizal Park.

With the theme “Yapak ng Poong Nazareno, Yakap ng Sambayanan sa Pagbabagong Buhay,” many will follow the procession barefoot as a sign of humility or in fulfillment of a “panata” (vow). While chanting “Viva Señor!,” devotees will try to touch the ropes attached to the gilded carriage of the image of the Black Nazarene. Devotees believe the ropes have miraculous powers. Others will throw towels to the men surrounding the image who in turn throw the towels back to the crowd after wiping them on the image of Christ.

The image was quietly transferred to the grandstand on Saturday for the overnight vigil last night.

The traditional “Pahalik sa Nazareno,” a band parade, a mass, healing services, and talks were held. A procession of the replicas of the Black Nazarene took place last Friday, Jan. 7.

This Sunday, the Holy Hour will be observed at 4 a.m. At the Quiapo Church, hourly masses will be held from 3 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Msgr. Jose Clemente F. Ignacio, rector of the Quiapo Church, urged devotees “to pray for the unborn,” citing the event as “a significant time to ask God to bless families and to inspire society to embrace each and every life.”

The life-size black wooden statue of the Black Nazarene was brought to Manila by a group of Augustinian Recollect friars from Mexico on May 31, 1607. First enshrined at the first Recollect Church in Bagumbayan (now part of Rizal Park), the Black Nazarene was transferred to a bigger Recollect Church in Intramuros, Manila in1608.

In 1787, Archbishop of Manila Basilio Sancho de Santas Junta y Rufina ordered the transfer of the image to the Quiapo Church where it has survived great fires that destroyed the church in 1791 and 1929, strong earthquakes in 1645 and 1863, and the bombing of Manila in 1945 during World War II.

The Recollect Fathers worked to spread devotion to the Black Nazarene all over the country. During the 19th century, Pope Pius VII granted indulgence to those who piously prayed before the image of the Black Nazarene.

The Black Nazarene is also brought out for a procession during the Holy Week and on the first day of every year.

Plenary indulgence Meanwhile, a plenary indulgence may be gained by the millions of faithful expected to attend the Feast of the Black Nazarene this Sunday.

Fr. Genaro Diwa, head of the Ministry for Liturgical Affairs of the Archdiocese of Manila, said the faithful can avail themselves of the indulgence by doing the following.

“One can gain it by going to confession, receiving Holy Communion, praying for the intentions of the Holy Father, and making the profession of faith or creed,” he said.

It was in the 1880s, when Pope Pius VII granted plenary indulgence to those who piously pray before the image of the Black Nazarene.

According to Roman Catholic theology, an indulgence is the (full or partial) remission of temporal punishment due for sins which have already been forgiven.

This Sunday, the” traslacion” or the re-enactment of the transfer of the life-size image of the Nazarene from Intramuros to the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene (Quiapo Church) will be held at 8 a.m. after the Mass to be celebrated by Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales at the Quirino Grandstand.

Msgr. Jose Clemente Ignacio, rector of Quiapo Church has urged the faithful to pray for a safe and orderly procession in Quiapo this afternoon.

“Let’s pray that our celebration will be peaceful and safe,” he said in a press briefing.

Ignacio said this is also the reason for the past years, they have decided to change the route of the procession and start it from the Luneta to decongest the crowd and help prevent injuries and deaths.

“Plaza Miranda can only hold thousands of people, but we all know that millions will join the celebration,” he said.

“Ever since we decongested the crowd, nobody died so far,” added Ignacio

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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