The Black Nazarene: The Christ of the poor and the powerless

“Life does not lie in power. We were born without power, and when we die, we will have no power as well Live without being greedy for power, and you will be a real person,”

This was the message of Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle during the Holy Mass before the annual Black Nazarene procession held last 9 January 2018 in Manila, Philippines.

Local police estimated that devotees swelled to 6 million, many of whom joined the procession which started at 4:57 A.M. and ended 2:59 A.M. the following day.

The Black Nazarene is a life-sized, dark-skinned image of Jesus Christ carrying the cross. Compared to the usual, Westernized depictions of Jesus, the Black Nazarene has brought Christ to a more relatable level to Filipinos.



The devotees to the Nazarene are mostly poor, working class Filipinos and they undergo remarkable acts of sacrifice as their way of proving their devotion to the image. Since many of them testify that the statue is miraculous, believing that a mere touch can cure sicknesses and solve their many problems in life, devotees try their best to approach the statue and its carriage and wipe it with cloth garments during the course of the procession. Many walk the procession barefoot in solidarity with Christ who walked the same way to Golgotha. For people who live in communities en route to the procession, they prepare food and drinks for those joining the procession. While for others, simply accompanying the image in its hours-long journey back towards its abode at the Minor Basilica of Quiapo is sacrifice enough. For all of them, it is not enough to worship and thank the Lord through words. Their gratitude and love must show in the fervor of their devotion.

The devotion, however, is not without its critics. Many attack the procession as an example of folk Catholicism, or a practice of mixing pagan beliefs with the doctrines of the Church. But for Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, the devotion is a testimony of poor Filipinos, a faith expression born out of the poverty and misery they endure daily For the Cardinal, the poor’s devotion to touch the Nazarene and cling to its processional carriage is a manifestation of their need to clutch on to God’s love when one has absolutely nothing left to hold on to.


ACN Philippines