[Papal Visit 2015] What Francis likes: ‘Popular piety’ that plays big roles in Pinoys’ faith

 

 

MANILA (The Filipino Connection, 13 January)—After the nation’s capital saw one Black Nazarene image putting millions of Filipino Catholic faithful to a stop for devotion, this form of “popular religiosity” is one “act of liberation” that a forthcoming visitor actually likes.

Popular piety, of which the Feast of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo, Manila is an example, is “one of the most effective bearers of faith,” says Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle of the Archdiocese of Manila.

Thus, the “Nazareno” is in many ways “an act of liberation” says Tagle, whose Catholic archdiocese will receive Pope Francis starting January 15.

The annual Black Nazareno procession in Manila is one form of popular religiosity that Pope Francis likes as a means to strengthen the faith, says Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle (photo by MIA ROSIENNA MALLARI / The Filipino Connection)

The annual Black Nazarene procession in Manila is one form of popular religiosity that Pope Francis likes as a means to strengthen the faith, says Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle (photo by MIA ROSIENNA MALLARI / The Filipino Connection)

“In a sense, (the Black Nazarene) comes from the cultural expressions of the symbol of the poor who may not be able to grasp totally the more notional and intellectual aspect of the faith,” said Manila’s archbishop at a public forum at a Catholic college here.

This annual event by Quiapo’s Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene, whose edition this year is colored with Filipinos’ excitement over the visit of the Vicar of Christ, is “where the Holy Spirit and the culture of the poor meet.”

The 2015 Black Nazarene procession’s turnout, estimated to be nine million strong, is an early dry-run to the January 15-19 apostolic visit of Pope Francis, especially in terms of security. (Two died and some 1,200 devotees were injured or provided medical assistance.)

And Cardinal Tagle even hinted at why Pope Francis appreciates popular religiosity events such as the Black Nazarene procession: The continent of South America, Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s origins.

The Latin American Catholic Church “has incorporated a lot of popular piety and popular religiosity (as expressions) of faith,” Tagle said.

In Argentina, the counterpart event of the Nazareno feast is the Procession of Our Lord and the Virgin of the Miracle in Salta City (in the northwestern part of Argentina), held every September. The Argentinian Catholic Church also endorses advocations of the Blessed Virgin Mary, of saints, and of other religious characters —these being locally or regionally popular.

In Colombia, insurance companies sell insurance products that are then linked to people’s desired intercessions from certain saints.

“The Holy Father warns us not to disdain popular religiosity. For in countries where popular religiosity has disappeared, church life (was) also gone,” Tagle said.

Crowd at the 2015 Black Nazarene procession was estimated to be from five to nine million (photo by MIA ROSIENNA MALLARI / The Filipino Connection)

Crowd at the 2015 Black Nazarene procession was estimated to be from five to nine million (photo by MIA ROSIENNA MALLARI / The Filipino Connection)

Tagle added that one of the regrets of the European churches, already having declining numbers of Catholics, after the Second Vatican Council is “minimizing” the role of symbols which are “abounded in popular religiosity.”

“They (Europeans) are beginning to say, yes, faith has a popular dimension which is not always within reach of the official Church.”

Yet the Manila Cardinal said that it doesn’t mean that popular religiosity is “totally safe of fanaticism,” adding that popular religiosity is always “subject to purification.”

“As flesh and blood, we need symbols, we need mediation,” said Tagle. “Deeper meanings come to us through symbols.”

 

 

The Filipino Connection covers the visit of Pope Francis in partnership with Philstar.com.

 

 

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