No physical masses for Black Nazarene feast in Manila

No physical masses for Black Nazarene feast in Manila
People walk in front of Quiapo Church, which suspended next year’s Black Nazarene procession, yesterday.
Edd Gumban

MANILA, Philippines — The Manila City government announced Wednesday that there will be no physical masses for the upcoming Feast of the Black Nazarene amid the threat of the Omicron variant and the dramatic spike in new coronavirus infections.

Manila City Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso said that Msgr. Hernando Coronel agreed to the city government’s plea for them not to hold the Traslacion and physical masses for the celebration of the Feast of the Black Nazarene this January 9.

"We will not have a Traslacion this year. And we will not have physical masses, only online masses for now," Domagoso said in Filipino at a press conference. "Please understand. This is also for your and your children’s safety."

It will be the second consecutive year that the Manila City government and local church leaders cancelled the Traslacion, an annual grand procession of the image of the Black Nazarene that draws millions of devotees.

But it will be the first since the start of the pandemic that physical masses will not be held. Last year, devotees who flocked to Quiapo Church where the image of the Black Nazarene is enshrined amounted to around 400,000, according to police estimates.

The cancellation of masses for the Feast of the Black Nazarene came after President Rodrigo Duterte and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III appealed to the public to suspend mass gatherings, including the Traslacion and masses.

"I am now appealing to you to forego and cancel all physical gatherings including the procession and the celebration of mass in the church," Duterte said in a Cabinet briefing televised late Tuesday night. "There are millions of devotees there. And you cannot just be complacent about the transmission of the disease."

Aside from cancelling the Traslacion and masses, Domagoso also banned the sale of liquor and other alcoholic beverages from 6 p.m. of January 8, 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. of January 10.

Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite and Rizal are under Alert Level 3 until January 15, where religious gatherings are allowed at 30% capacity for indoor venues and at 50% capacity outdoors.

The Philippines has seen a dramatic rise in new COVID-19 cases in the past week, coming from 19-month lows to new two-month highs.

Just this Tuesday, the country recorded 5,434 new infections — the highest single-day tally since October 23, when 5,807 cases were reported. — Xave Gregorio

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