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Catholic 'Black Nazarene' procession in Philippines draws huge crowd

A massive crowd of people took to the streets of Manila in order to touch a centuries-old statue of Christ. The event took place despite fears of a possible terror attack.

Thousands of security forces stood guard as the huge procession made its way through the Philippines capital on Monday in a massive display of Catholic devotion. The event is one of the largest religious processions in the world.

Police estimated that at least a million people took part in order to touch, or at least glimpse, the Black Nazarene, a statue of a dark-skinned Jesus Christ believed to have miraculous powers. Devotees believe that touching the statue will grant them good fortune or relieve them of ailments.

Phillipinen Nazarener Massenprozession in Manila (Reuters/R. Ranoco)

At least a million people are estimated to have taken part in the procession

In what was the centerpiece of the ceremony, revelers braved the heat to take part in a day-long procession in which they traversed 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) across the city barefoot.

Philippine Red Cross staff said they'd treated more than a thousand people for dizziness, fainting and wounds on their feet, although there were no fatalities. Last year, two people died from heart attacks and seizures during the procession.

Phillipinen Nazarener Massenprozession in Manila (Reuters/R. Ranoco)

Devotees carried the Black Nazarene before the beginning of the procession

Tension was also heightened due to security fears in the wake of the killing of an Islamist extremist. The militant, Mohammad Jaafar Maguid, was killed by police in Sarangani province, while three of his companions were detained. On Saturday, a militant linked to Maguid was killed along with a female companion after trying to throw a grenade at police.

Though there was no direct threat against the ceremony, authorities warned that the Islamist militants could retaliate. The US, the UK and Australia all warned their citizens not to attend the festivities due to the possible terror threat.

Phillipinen Nazarener Massenprozession in Manila (Reuters/E. Acayan)

A woman who fainted during the festivities was carried to safety

President Rodrigo Duterte hailed the event. "Prayers are likely answered because we do not give up or get tired from asking God for the fulfillment of our heart's desires," he said.

The Black Nazarene is believed to have been brought to the Philippines from Mexico by Spanish missionaries in 1606.

blc/jm (AFP, AP, dpa)

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