A million people have joined a parade of a centuries-old icon of Jesus Christ in the Philippines capital, during an annual Roman Catholic procession in Asia's bastion of Christianity.

In fervent displays of devotion, Catholic devotees jammed the streets of Manila on Friday for a chance to touch the Black Nazarene, a life-sized statue of Jesus Christ that many believe can deliver miracles.

Isko Moreno, the vice mayor of Manila, said around a million people took part at the start of the procession, with many others waiting to join along a circuitous route.

Men, women and children chanted and twirled white handkerchiefs during the raucous procession, with some hurling themselves at the statue.

Gwen Pang, secretary general of the Philippine Red Cross, said volunteers treated about 600 people for cuts, bruises and dizziness. One man accompanying the statue reportedly died of a heart attack.

The wooden statue of Christ, crowned with thorns, is believed to have been brought from Mexico to Manila on a galleon 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 from fires, earthquakes and even intense bombings during World War II is a testament to its mystical powers.

The procession is expected to last well into the night and will take at least 15 hours to snake through seven kilometers of streets before ending at the Quiapo Church, home of the Black Nazarene in central Manila.

Officials and church leaders expect millions to pour on to the streets when Pope Francis visits on January 15.

Devotees believe the life-sized statue can deliver miracles [Reuters]

Source: Agencies