MANILA, Philippines – The rector of Quiapo Church, Monsignor Hernando Coronel, urged devotees of the Black Nazarene to pray for the Philippines' leaders, including President Rodrigo Duterte, in the face of the Chief Executive's recent tirades against Christian beliefs.
Duterte earlier said Jesus Christ is "unimpressive" because he allowed himself to be nailed on the cross. Duterte said if he is God and is condemned to be crucified, he would summon lightning to burn all heretics.
Coronel was asked about Duterte's tirades in a media briefing on Thursday, January 3, less than a week before the annual Traslacion – the Feast of the Black Nazarene, also called the Nazareno, in Quiapo, Manila.
Duterte's statement, after all, can be linked to the Black Nazarene. The Black Nazarene, a miraculous image from the 17th century, depicts Jesus Christ suffering and carrying the cross – the subject of Duterte's recent tirades.
How would the Quiapo Church rector counsel devotees who hear Duterte's words? Coronel on Thursday did not give a direct response, but instead reminded devotees to pray for the country's leaders and stressed that the Nazareno devotion is real.
"Bahagi sa Kristiyanong pananampalataya ang ipagdasal ang mga pinuno ng ating bansa, mga pinuno natin sa lipunan, kasama na ang ating Pangulo, lahat ng naglilingkod sa gobyerno," Coronel said.
(Part of the Christian faith is to pray for the leaders of our country, the leaders in our society, including our President, everyone who serves in our government.)
On the Black Nazarene, Coronel said, "He is for real." Coronel also said of devotees' relationship to Christ, "It is close, it is personal, it is direct, and it is immediate."
Quiapo Church, which houses the Black Nazarene image, expects 21 million devotees to join the fiesta activities from December 31 to January 9.
On the day of the fiesta itself, Quiapo Church expects around 5 million devotees to join the Traslacion – the almost 24-hour procession of the Black Nazarene image from Rizal Park to Quiapo Church. (READ: Making sense of the Nazarene devotion)
Duterte's remarks have drawn criticism from Catholic leaders. Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, without naming Duterte, recently said that the one who tells people it is useless to go to church "is antichrist." – Rappler.com
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at email@example.com.