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Hundreds of thousands of Filipino Catholics have begun a raucous religious procession in Manila to honour a centuries-old black statue of Jesus Christ in an annual event that organisers say was being held partly to pray for the victims of a monster typhoon that ravaged the central Philippines last year. Officials say 6,000 policemen were deployed on Thursday to secure the massive, daylong procession, a security nightmare due to the presence of Muslim extremists and widespread crimes in the country. Officials say up to 12 (m) million devotees may join, but such figures are difficult to independently confirm. The worshippers crowded around a life-sized wooden statue of Jesus Christ, known as the Black Nazarene. People hurl towels or handkerchiefs to be wiped on the icon. Many believe the Black Nazarene holds mystical powers that can wash away sins or cure illnesses. “I bring and raise my grandson with Cerebral Palsy to the image of the Black Nazarene, now he is cured,” said Alicia De Los Trinos who has been a devotee since her high school days forty years ago. “If you can see him, usually when a child has cerebral palsy they are very weak, but with the lord’s mercy he is now like a normal boy,” she added. The wooden statue of Christ, crowned with thorns and bearing a cross, is believed to have been brought from Mexico to Manila in 1606 by Spanish missionaries. The ship that carried it caught fire, but the charred statue survived and was named the Black Nazarene. Some believe the statue’s survival of fires and earthquakes through the centuries and intense bombings during World War II is a testament to its powers. The Philippines, Asia’s most predominantly Christian nation, is 80 percent Catholic.No Comment | euronews: watch the international news without commentary | http://www.euronews.net/nocomment/