MANILA - Some 4 million Catholics joined the annual procession of the Black Nazarene in the capital and other activities in its lead-up, police said Thursday.
Of the total, 2.5 million devotees participated in the Traslacion, the procession that brought back Christ's ebony image from the Quirino Grandstand to its home at Quiapo Church, said Director Guillermo Eleazar, chief of the Metro Manila police.
Another 1.5 million devotees were in religious rites held in the 10 days ahead of the Traslacion, he told radio DZMM.
Among traditional activities held before the procession are Masses, a parade of Black Nazarene replicas and the "Pahalik" or kissing of the 400-year-old statue.
The Traslacion was "generally peaceful," resulting in no death and with the arrest of a thief as the only untoward incident, said Eleazar.
The Philippine Red Cross, in its Twitter account, said it gave medical aid to 1,613 devotees, most of whom needed blood pressure monitoring or suffered breathing difficulty and minor wounds.
Devotees, most walking barefoot in maroon and yellow shirts, jostle each year to touch the ropes pulling the carriage of the Black Nazarene or throw white towels to wipe the statue believed to have miraculous powers.
It is not known why the statue, which was carved in Mexico, turned black. There are myths that the original statue donated by Spanish priests was burned as a fire erupted on the ship that carried it to the Philippines in the early 17th century.
Thousands of police and soldiers deployed were deployed in the city to provide security, and coast guard boats were on standby as the huge crowd passed a narrow bridge on Wednesday afternoon.
About 80 percent of 100 million Filipinos are Roman Catholic. The Philippines is renowned for its colorful religious rituals, and the celebration of the "Black Nazarene" is a tradition in the former Spanish colony that goes back more than 2 centuries.
With a report from Reuters