Thousands of security forces were deployed to Manila, the Philippines capital, on Tuesday as devotees of a centuries-old statue of Jesus Christ converged in a public park ahead of an annual procession.
The Black Nazarene was displayed on a public grandstand in Rizal Park in Manila to allow devotees to touch and kiss the feet of the statue before the procession on Wednesday.
Over 10,000 people lined up at the park for the vigil called “pahalik” or kissing, according to early estimates by police.
Almost 2,500 police officers were also stationed at the park.
“Police will be on full-alert status throughout the activities, deploying a total of 7,200 personnel to work with the military, medical teams and other emergency groups.
“Rumours of threats have circulated. However, these either have no basis or are unreliable.
“There is no confirmed threat as of the moment for the annual feast,’’ Guillermo Eleazar, Head of the Manila Police Force said in a statement.
Mr Eleazar said that the police were taking all information seriously.
In 2018, over 2.5 million people were estimated to have taken part in the “pahalik’’ and the procession that traversed more than six kilometres and took the entire day.
The Black Nazarene, a wooden statue, crowned with thorns and bearing a cross, is believed to have been brought from Mexico to Manila in 1606 by Spanish missionaries.
The ship that carried it caught fire but the charred statue survived and was named the Black Nazarene, which is believed to be miraculous.
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