Philippines celebrates Feast of the Black Nazarene

.- Filipinos celebrated the Feast of the Black Nazarene on Wednesday, centering their veneration around a black statue of Jesus, that many believe has miraculous capabilities.

2.2 million devotees seeking blessings and atonement from sins packed the streets around Quiapo church, which hosts the life-sized wooden statue.  Two died and dozens were injured in the press of the crowd, Inquirer.net reports

Spanish missionaries brought the statue to the nation from Mexico in 1606.  Their ship caught fire, and though flames darkened the statue it survived the blaze.

Many devotees believe the statue has miraculous healing power and can wash away sins.

A replica of the statue was carried from the church on a cart in an hours-long procession through the packed streets.  Many of the pilgrims pressed forward, trying to touch the replica.

In the crush of the crowd, one woman suffered cardiac arrest and died.  A 44 year-old man also died, while about fifty others were injured.

Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, Archbishop of Manila, led a Mass at dawn for the faithful.  He urged the poor not to lose hope amid their daily challenges, while calling the celebration a personification of "taking up one's crosses and trials in life in imitation of Christ."

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