300k devotees join ‘Walk with Jesus’ to start Cebu’s Sto Niño celebration
CEBU CITY –– Around 300,000 people braved a chilly and wet dawn to join the penitential “Walk with Jesus” to mark the start of the 455th Fiesta Señor celebration early morning on Thursday.
Devotees carried their images of the Sto. Niño, prayed the holy rosary and sang liturgical hymns, which were broadcast live on radio and amplified by speakers during the dawn procession and the first novena Mass.
The two-kilometer prayer walk opens this year’s activities in honor of the Child Jesus.
There were no fireworks or balloons along the procession route following an appeal from the Augustinian priests in charge of the basilica to maintain the solemnity of the event and for public safety.
Police Chief Major Keith Allen Andaya, overall ground commander, said at least 300,000 devotees took part in the opening salvo and first novena Mass.
The flower-decked carroza that carried the image of the Sto. Niño arrived at the basilica at 5:30 a.m. and was welcomed with shouts of “Viva Pit Señor!” and “Viva Señor Sto. Niño” as the church bells pealed.
The 3,500-capacity church courtyard was packed with thousands more spilling into the streets outside of the basilica.
They watched the Eucharistic celebration through large LED screens and television monitors installed around the church complex.
In his homily, Fr. Pacifico “Jun” Nohara Jr., the rector of the basilica, said the dawn procession was a manifestation of faith.
“Not even the rain could stop us from coming to join the prayer walk,” he said.
The image of the Sto. Niño was given as a baptismal gift by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan to Cebu’s Hara Humamay in 1521.
Two other images—the Ecce Homo and the Madonna (Blessed Virgin Mary carrying a child)—were given to Rajah Humabon and the natives.
Nohara called on the people to live out their faith and to evangelize through words and deeds.
“If we love God, we should also love others even our enemies,” he said.
This year’s celebration carries the theme “Sto. Niño: Cause of our Unity and Charity,” which is patterned after the pastoral thrust of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on the Year of the Ecumenism.
In 2013, the CBCP launched a nine-year “spiritual journey” towards the 500th Jubilee of Christianization of the Philippines in 2021 with different themes for each year.
As part of a tradition, the fiesta’s Hermano and Hermana Mayores for 2020—Mr. Alan Doromal and Mrs. Elvie Doromal—were officially presented to the people during the Mass.
During the offertory, people waved their hands in the air in unison as they sang “Bato-Balani sa Gugma” (Magnet of love), an ancient hymn in honor of the Sto. Niño.
The basilica complex, which has been the center of the four-century-old devotion to the Sto. Niño, will be open 24 hours from January 9 to 19 to accommodate the multitude of Sto. Niño devotees, who come to pay homage to the original image of the Sto. Niño, which is enthroned in a glass case at a side chapel inside the Basilica.
The church, however, will be closed from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. to allow the janitors to clean the basilica.
Edited by Lzb
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