Jun P. Espina         3 min read
Updated on December 19th, 2019
Black Nazarene Versus Filipino Catholicism
How is one piece of wood, the so-called Black Narazene, making both news and history every January of each year in the Philippines since Catholic “devotees” worshiped it as a miraculous idol for hundreds of years? The Black Nazarene symbolizes the ordinary Filipinos’ Catholicism and devotion to a god made of wood. “Not at all,” protested the learned academicians and intellectuals who were into the Black Nazarene worship, too. It is how deep the Black Nazarene cult has permeated into the matrix of the Filipino faith system for over 200 years.
Papal Approval on the Black Nazarene Devotion
The Wikipedia (accessed January 9, 2013) said that “Pope Innocent X approved the statue for veneration in 1650 as a Sacramental and authorized the Confraternity of the Most Holy Jesus Nazarene (Spanish: Cofradia de Nuestro Santo Jesus Nazareno). During the Spanish era, Filipinos were barred from joining the Holy Orders, in which confraternity were a group of religious laymen. Pope Pius VII gave the statue his Apostolic Blessing in 1880, which granted plenary indulgence to those who piously pray before the statue.”
This Papal approval is, I think, one of the reasons for the Black Narazene’s popularity.
I accessed the same post from Wikipedia again (on May 5, 2017) and found the edited version saying that the “The icon is renowned in the Philippines, and is considered by many Filipino Catholics to be miraculous, its mere touch able to cure disease. It attracts homage by numerous devotees and major processions every year.”
Of the Chaos and Traffic Jams that the Black Nazarene Brings
A few Catholic intellectuals in the Philippines however, seemed to have been tenanted by the chaos and traffic jams that this famous statue has brought at the Quiapo Church area, its home. Wrote Ma. Ceres P. Doyo 1 of the Philippine Daily Inquirer: “I am writing this piece while the so-called ocean of humanity is moving and groaning toward its destination, the Quiapo Church. There is no word yet on how many hours it might take for the andas carrying the Black Nazarene to navigate the winding six kilometers. Last year it took almost 24 hours.”
Of the Black Nazarene’s Feast: An “Expression of Religiosity”
Of this “ocean of humanity” joining the procession of the Black Nazarene (every January) observers noticed the ever-increasing number of devotees year by year as “‘they encounter the Divine’ in the grand procession.” 2
Philip C. Tubeza 3 (also from the Philippine Daily Inquirer) quoted Monsignor Jose Clemente Ignacio’s (rector of the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene) defense on the opinion that the Black Nazarene parade is just inspiring fanaticism rather than telling the truth that it is just a lifeless piece of black wood and that the image’s “head wears a braided wig made of dyed abaca, along with a golden crown of thorns.” (See: Wikipedia) For Monsignor Ignacio, the Black Nazarene’s grand procession every January is just a “unique expression of Filipino spirituality and popular piety ‘to experience “heaven” even for a short glimpse.’” Monsignor Ignacio added that “Kissing or holding on to the statues is not worshiping statues, it is connecting to the divine, to touch and be touched by heaven itself.”
How Miraculous is the Black Nazarene?
“Thousands of Filipino devotees carry the statue of the Black Nazarene during the annual religious procession in Manila on january 9, 2017. The annual festival of the Black Nazarene is expected to draw about 15 million people.” — reported NewsInfo.Inquirer.Net. 4
A few believers of this idol testified to the media about their miraculous healing experience, but we have not seen any testimony on the Internet of someone having recovered from a complete blindness or a stage four lung cancer.
Of Filipino Catholicism and the Black Nazarene
The Black Narazene symbolizes the departure of Filipino Catholicism from the orthodox Bible-based faith of worshiping the risen Jesus Christ alone in “spirit and truth.” (John 4:24) Christ isn’t a black Nazarene and He is not a piece of wood either. “The popular belief attributes the statue’s dark color to a fire on the ship carrying it from Mexico (during the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade) that charred its originally white skin.5 Just like the worship of the “Holy Infant Jesus” (Sto. Nino), the worship of the Black Nazarene is not based on the Holy Scriptures. There’s, therefore, no truth in it. When people are poor or unschooled, they have many imagined remedies to their frustrations and doubts. Someone has well said that: “Fanaticism is the only way to put an end to the doubts that constantly trouble the human soul.” The Black Nazarene is pure superstition and idolatry, hence the requirement for a thousand or so police officers and medics to maintain peace and order as the faithful paraded their god in the busy streets of Manila. “According to theologian Msgr. Sabino A. Vengco, Jr. of the Loyola School of Theology, there are myths surrounding the devotion to the Black Nazarene. Vengco says ‘the ignorance surrounding the Nazareno is remarkable.'” 6
- READ MORE: Poverty Toward God is Great Tragedy
1 Doyo, Ma. Ceres P. “The Nazarene’s nightmare.” opinion.inquirer.net. http://opinion.inquirer.net/44529/the-nazarenes-nightmare (accessed May 5, 2017)
2 Tubeza, Philip C. “Quiapo priest: Filipino devotion to Black Nazarene not idolatry.” newsinfo.inquirer.net. http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/337495/quiapo-priest-filipino-devotion-to-black-nazarene-not-idolatry#ixzz4gD9eHNG5 (accessed May 5, 2017)
4 Agence France-Presse. newsinfo.inquirer.net. “Huge Catholic procession underway in the Philippines.” http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/860580/huge-catholic-procession-underway-in-the-philippines (accessed May 5, 2017)
5 BM, GMA News. “Black or white: The Nazarene and the Pinoy devotion.” http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/lifestyle/artandculture/400551/black-or-white-the-nazarene-and-the-pinoy-devotion/story/ (accessed May 5, 2017)