Black Nazarene devotees displayed ‘excess fanaticism,’ says Quiapo priest
MANILA, Philippines—In the wake of this year’s procession of the Black Nazarene of Quiapo, which entered the books as the longest in the history of the 17th century icon, a Catholic priest in charge of the procession admitted that the devotees displayed an “excess of fanaticism that needs to be corrected.”
“It’s our task to slowly form and educate the faithful about their devotion and the right way of expressing such devotion that will not harm themselves and others,” said Msgr. Clemente Ignacio, rector of the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo.
“We admit that there were elements or excess of fanaticism that needs to be corrected but we also saw from them yesterday (Monday) the seed of their deepening devotion,” Ignacio said shortly after the procession ended at 6:11 a.m. Tuesday, more than 22 hours after it started inching its way through sea of devotees along a 5-kilometer route Monday morning.
Ignacio equated fanaticism to irrationality, thinking only of one’s self and not listening to others.
As to the devotees’ yearning to touch the miraculous image, Ignacio said in a phone interview with reporters, “I understand their very strong desire to touch the Black Nazarene … that’s their way of expressing their faith.”
The Philippine Red Cross reported over 500 people injured following the procession, which saw a multitude of mostly men muscle their way through the crammed streets of Manila determined to touch or kiss the dark-colored life-size statue of Jesus Christ.
Thousands of devotees also skipped a good night’s sleep on Monday waiting for the procession to end and the image to return to Quiapo Church.
Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle, for his part, said it required some processing among “non-devotees” to understand the heart and fervor of the followers of the Black Nazarene.
“Let us pray and let us try to understand the heart of the devotees because if we understand that, we will also be able to realize something about the identity of Filipinos,” added Ignacio.
“To understand it, you need to be a devotee. Outsiders do not understand,” said Tagle on Monday after barefoot men and women made a mad dash to the stage of Quirino Grandstand to be among the first to touch the image even before the Mass ended Monday.
Over Church-run Radio Veritas, Novaliches Bishop Emeritus Teodoro Bacani Jr. said the Church must make the devotees realize that it was only through deep faith—and not through towels or handkerchiefs—that they could touch Jesus Christ.
“The Church must focus on catechesis because it’s not good that people are getting hurt during the procession,” Bacani said Tuesday.
“The devotees must be taught that they don’t need to jostle their way up to the carriage just to touch the image of the Black Nazarene,” Bacani said. “It’s not the touch of the hand that matters but to touch the Lord through their faith.”
Ignacio said Quiapo Church, the center of the devotion to the Black Nazarene, has been holding recollections among devotees and marshals—an effort of the Church to deepen their devotion and faith.
Such program has also been extended to Antipolo and Tondo, among other areas where there are large groups of devotees. “We are also thinking of holding recollections in other places,” Ignacio added.
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