MANILA, Philippines — Hundreds of thousands of Roman Catholics joined a raucous religious procession in Manila on Sunday to honor a centuries-old black statue of Jesus Christ that they believe possesses mystical powers.
Nearly 400 people fainted or were injured as barefoot devotees surged forward over iron railings to try and touch the 404-year-old image of Christ — known as the Black Nazarene — at the end of morning mass in a Manila park.
Police said the crowd of about 1 million people that gathered at Rizal Park could swell later Sunday. About 3,500 police secured the 3-mile (5-kilometer) route that took the statue from the park to a popular church in Quiapo district, Manila police chief Roberto Rongavilla said.
The wooden statue of Christ, 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 then called the Black Nazarene.