The grand procession of the life-sized image of the Black Nazarene scheduled for January 2021 has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Manila city government said Friday.
Every year, millions of Catholic devotees participate in the Traslacion or the grand procession of a centuries-old wooden statue of Jesus Christ from Quirino Grandstand to the Quiapo Church.
It will be the first time that the annual traslacion, which draws millions of devotees every year, has been canceled.
The Black Nazarene is a life-sized image of a dark-skinned, kneeling Jesus Christ carrying the Cross enshrined in the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in the Quiapo district of Manila.
Millions of Filipino Catholic devotees flock to Quiapo every Jan. 9 to join the hours-long procession of the Black Nazarene, which is believed by many to be miraculous.
Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso said the decision to cancel the Traslacion was taken to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 among the hordes who traditionally join the festivities.
“I am appealing to the public to avoid parades and processions during this pandemic. Our devotees might get sick,” Domagoso said in Filipino.
He added there was no harm in stopping the procession for a year or two, because the tradition can be carried on in subsequent years.
With the suspension of the procession, Quiapo Church Rector Monsignor Hernando Coronel said masses will be held for Black Nazarene devotees instead.
“On Jan. 9, masses will continue and our vicars will be put out at the canopies of the church,” he said in Filipino.
Also on Friday, the Palace said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) has allowed religious gatherings in areas under general community quarantine (GCQ) to fill up venues up to 30 percent of their seating capacity..
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the easing of restrictions on religious gatherings was contained in Resolution 80 approved by the IATF-EID on Thursday.
Previously, religious activities in GCQ zones were authorized but only at 10-percent seating capacity.
"The religious denominations should strictly observe their submitted protocols and the minimum public health standards, particularly social distancing measures and non-pharmaceutical interventions such as the obligatory wearing of face masks and immediate availability of hand hygiene necessities in the premises," the resolution read.
The latest decision to increase the seating capacity for religious gatherings to 30 percent from the current 10 percent was based on the recommendation of Metro Manila mayors.