Philippine civil authorities supported the suspension of the annual religious procession of the image of the Black Nazarene, known as the “traslacion,” this year due to the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the country.
The National Task Force Against COVID-19 announced that it has approved the suspension of all activities related to the traditional “Feast of the Black Nazarene.”
“It is expected that a huge number of devotees coming from all walks of life will be participating in the different festival activities,” read a statement from the task force.
Earlier, Father Douglas Badong, parochial vicar of the Catholic church in Manila’s Quiapo district, said the decision to suspend the procession was in compliance with health protocols during the pandemic.
“As long as the [Inter-Agency Task Force] doesn’t allow it, we will not be able to hold a procession,” said the priest, adding that the decision was made after consultations between Church and government leaders.
The Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene — more commonly known as the Quiapo church — will be closed from January 7 to 9. The celebration of Masses will, however, be aired online.
The annual religious procession recalls the transfer of the image of the Black Nazarene from an Augustinian church in the old walled city of Manila to the basilica in the city’s Quiapo district.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday, January 4, called on the Catholic Church to suspend the celebration of Masses and the “traslacion.”
“I am now appealing to you to forego and cancel all physical gatherings, including the procession and the celebration of Mass in church because there are a lot of [COVID-19] cases,” said the president in his weekly address to the people.
“The government does not impose the rules now. It does not really, it doesn’t have the character of an imposition, but rather a request from the government for everybody to follow the guidelines set to prevent the widespread again, super spreader,” said Duterte.
He said the “traslacion” might be an important event for the Church, and the Black Nazarene’s devotees, but the government has “to come up with critical decisions to protect public health and public safety.”
“Now I have to appeal to them for their understanding and to really look at it in the broader context of our liability also to the people if we do not act correctly or fail to come up with measures to protect the public interest and public health,” he said.
“I apologize in advance [that] I have to do it because I have to do it,” said the president.
The Department of Health said the Philippines is now at “high-risk” classification for COVID-19, with an 849 percent increase in seven-day moving daily average cases, 448 percent two-week growth rate, 1.66 average daily attack rate, and 14.1 percent positivity rate. – with a report from the Philippine News Agency