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Filipino Catholics parade centuries-old 'Black Nazarene'

Filipino Catholics parade centuries-old 'Black Nazarene'
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A mammoth crowd of mostly barefoot Filipino Catholics prayed for peace in the Middle East as they began an annual procession of a centuries-old black statue of Jesus Christ in one of Asia';s biggest religious events Thursday. Image Credit: AFP
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The daylong procession of the wooden Black Nazarene draws massive numbers of mostly poor Catholic devotees who pray for the sick and a better life each year. Image Credit: Reuters
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But widespread fears over the escalating conflict between the United States and Iran were highlighted in a predawn Mass before Thursday';s raucous procession unfolded. Image Credit: Reuters
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"Let us remember that in other parts of the world, the threat of violence is brewing and, hopefully, this will not lead to war,';'; Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle told the crowd at a Manila seaside park. Image Credit: Reuters
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The popular Manila church leader asked the tens of thousands of devotees clad in maroon shirts _ the color of the Black Nazarene';s robe _ to briefly pause in silence and pray for peace in the Middle East and the safety of its people, including many Filipino expatriate workers. Image Credit: Reuters
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"Let us pray ... that the desire to retaliate eases,';'; Tagle said. Image Credit: AFP
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One of the world';s leading labor providers, the Philippines would face a gargantuan crisis if hostilities between the U.S. and Iran escalate and embroil other Middle Eastern countries that host many Filipinos, such as Saudi Arabia and Israel. Image Credit: AFP
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The Philippine government on Wednesday ordered Filipino workers to leave Iraq and Iran. Image Credit: AFP
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The military prepared to deploy navy ships, three air force cargo planes and one battalion each of marines and army troops to help the evacuations in case hostilities worsen. Image Credit: AFP
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Organizers of the Black Nazarene events expect up to 4 million people to join the procession, which usually ends late at night when the life-size statue of Christ is returned to a church in Manila';s working-class district of Quiapo. Image Credit: AFP
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More than 12,000 police, including bomb squads, were deployed to secure the procession, though authorities said they have not monitored any specific security threat to the event. Image Credit: AFP
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Devotees who were pushed back when they tried to touch the statue complained, but despite the security and the tropical heat, mobs of people dangerously squeezed into a tight pack of humanity around the carriage. Image Credit: AFP
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Crowned with thorns and bearing a cross, the Nazarene statue is believed to have been brought from Mexico to Manila on a galleon in 1606 by Spanish missionaries. Image Credit: Reuters
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The spectacle reflects the unique brand of Catholicism, which includes folk superstitions, in Asia';s largest Catholic nation. Image Credit: AFP
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Dozens of Filipinos have themselves nailed to crosses on Good Friday in another tradition that draws huge crowds and tourists each year. Image Credit: AFP
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Such religious passion has continued in the Philippines even as President Rodrigo Duterte has stepped up attacks on the Catholic church, faith and bishops, who have criticized the thousands of killings under his anti-drug crackdown. Image Credit: Reuters
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Guards or commonly called "hijos" (sons) ride atop a carriage transporting the statue of the Black Nazarene. Image Credit: AFP
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Romy Roxas (1st, L), one of the guards, supervises the statue of the Black Nazarene being placed in the carriage. Image Credit: AFP
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Devotees try to touch the Black Nazarene statue during the annual religious procession in Manila. Image Credit: AFP
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Devotees wave white cloths at the start of the annual religious procession in honour of the Black Nazarene. Image Credit: AFP