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Pictures: Millions of barefoot devotees take part in Manila 'Black Nazarene' procession

Some nine million Catholics packed the streets of the Filipino capital to honour a statue of Jesus they believe has miraculous powers.

MILLIONS OF DEVOTEES packed the streets of the Philippine capital Manila yesterday for one of the world’s biggest Catholic parades, honouring a statue of Jesus Christ they believe has miraculous powers.

Braving suffocating heat, pilgrims clambered over one another to touch the Black Nazarene during the ebony-hued wooden statue’s slow procession from Manila’s main park to a historic church.

“This has been a family tradition for years, and the Nazarene has given us many blessings over the years,” housewife Josephine Manalastas told AFP after she and her 80-year-old mother survived being trampled by the surging crowd.

Mother and daughter were taken to an ambulance nearby for treatment after a section of the crowd at the park stampeded over a steel barrier protecting the statue’s carriage. Medical staff said they were uninjured.

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[Image: Aaron Favila/AP/Press Association Images]

Large numbers of police were mustered to help maintain order along the six-kilometre route, but organisers said at least 300 devotees were injured, and one person suffered a potentially fatal stroke.

Schools declared a holiday and police estimated hundreds of thousands of pilgrims had turned up by sunrise.

Hours later, church organisers said this year's crowd had outnumbered the estimated nine million who attended last year, although the number could not be independently verified.

As the procession got underway, devotees climbed on each other's shoulders to kiss the statue or wipe it with white towels and handkerchiefs.

Others fought over a pair of thick lengths of rope that the pilgrims used to pull the carriage.

In scenes reminiscent of a rock concert mosh pit, one determined woman surfed the crowd to reach the icon, only to fall back afterwards and be swallowed up by the massive sea of humanity.

imagePolice snipers keep watch during the procession [Bullit Marquez/AP/Press Association Images]

More than 80 percent of the Philippines' 100 million people are Catholic, a legacy of four centuries of Spanish colonial rule, making it Asia's main bastion of the faith.

The country is deeply religious, but yesterday's march through Manila's old quarter -- the biggest religious event in the country -- is an extreme form of veneration.

The life-sized statue was brought to Manila by Augustinian priests from Mexico in 1607, decades after the start of colonial rule.

It was believed to have acquired its colour after it was partially burnt when the galleon carrying it caught fire.

Many Filipinos believe the icon is miraculous and that by joining the procession, barefoot as a mark of humility, their prayers will be answered.

Pictures: Millions of barefoot devotees take part in Manila 'Black Nazarene' procession
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  • Philippines Catholic Procession

    Source: Bullit Marquez
  • Philippines Catholic Procession

    Source: Bullit Marquez
  • Philippines Catholic Procession

    Source: AP/Press Association Images
  • Philippines Catholic Procession

    Source: AP/Press Association Images
  • Philippines Catholic Procession

    Source: Aaron Favila
  • Philippines Catholic Procession

    Source: Aaron Favila

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