300K join annual ‘Walk With Jesus,’ first Mass to kick off Fiesta Señor
CEBU CITY, Philippines — A sea of candlelight illumined the length of Osmeña Boulevard in Cebu City as the image of the Sto. Niño de Cebu was brought in a procession on Thursday dawn to mark the start of the 454th Fiesta Señor celebration.
Devotees—young and old—carried their own images of the Sto. Niño, prayed the holy rosary, and sang liturgical hymns broadcast live on radio and amplified by speakers during the “Walk with Jesus” procession and the first novena Mass.
The two-kilometer prayer walk that begn at 4 a. m. opens this year’s activities in honor of the Child Jesus.
There were no fireworks or balloons along the procession route following an appeal from the Augustinian priests in charge of the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño to maintain the solemnity of the event and for public safety.
The Cebu City Police Office said at least 300,000 devotees, or four times bigger than last year’s 80,000, took part in the opening salvo and first novena Mass.
The flower-decked carroza that carried the image of the Sto. Niño arrived at the basilica at 4:55 a.m.
The 3,500-capacity church courtyard was packed, with thousands more staying on the streets outside of the basilica.
They watched the Eucharistic celebration through large LED screens and television monitors installed around the church complex.
In his homily, Fr. Pacifico “Jun” Nohara Jr., the rector of the basilica, said the number of people who woke up early to attend the procession showed their deep devotion to the child Jesus.
“That’s sacrifice. That’s how we love the child Jesus,” he said.
As part of tradition, the fiesta’s Hermano and Hermana Mayores for 2019 – Lawyer Paul Yabao and wife Dioscora, were officially presented to the people during the Mass that saw. about 50 diocesan and religious priests as concelebrants.
This year’s celebration carries the theme “Sto. Nino: Guide of God’s Children to Service and Humility ” which is patterned after the pastoral thrust of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on the Year of the Youth.
In 2013, the CBCP launched a nine-year “spiritual journey towards the 500th annniversary of the Christianization of the Philippines in 2021 with different themes for each year.
At the end of the first novena Mass, Nohara carried the image of the Sto. Niño and led people in dancing the traditional one-step-forward two-steps-backward Sinulog dance for about five minutes.
The basilica complex, which has been the center of the four-century-old devotion to the Sto. Niño, will be open 22 hours from January 10 to 20 to accommodate the multitude of Sto. Niño devotees who come to pay homage to the original image of the Sto. Niño, which is enthroned in a glass case at a side chapel inside the Basilica.
The church will be closed from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. to allow the janitors to clean the basilica.
Except on January 10 and 18 when there are dawn processions, 11 Masses will be held at the Pilgrim Center every day leading to the feast of the Sto. Nino./elb
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