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Thousands of Filippino faithful gather at church to glimpse 'miraculous' statue

Thousands of Filippinos crowded outside a church in Manila on Saturday for a glimpse of a centuries-old statue of Jesus Christ believed to have miraculous healing powers, after an annual parade was cancelled due to COVID-19.

Ignoring official pleas to stay home because of the virus threat, Catholics wearing masks and face shields gathered along an avenue outside the Quiapo Church in the Filippino capital where the first of 15 masses for the feast of the Black Nazarene began before dawn.

People patiently waited to enter the church or watched the back-to-back masses broadcast live on large screens outside.

The orderly scenes were in contrast to the normal frenzied procession involving hundreds of thousands of pilgrims risking life and limb to touch the icon in the belief it can heal the sick.