(Photo: REUTERS/Erik De Castro)
Christians in the Philippines participated in an annual re-enactment of the crucifixion of Christ on Good Friday by nailing themselves on crosses, though the practice is not supported by the Roman Catholic Church.
"It was a great experience between me and God," 48-year-old Danish film director and stunt coordinator Lasse Spang Olsen told Reuters. "It was great. It was fun."
Olsen, who stayed on the cross for more than 10 minutes before being treated for his wounds, participated in the controversial practice with close to 20 Filipinos in San Fernando, which is 50 miles north of the capital, Manila. The event draws thousands of on-lookers each year, both locals and tourists.
"I will do it as long as my body will allow me," said 43-year-old Danilo Ramos, 43, who has been crucified 23 times. "I hope God will see my sacrifice and take good care of my family."
Eighty-three percent of the Philippines population is part of the Roman Catholic Church. Church leaders have said that the ritual is "self-serving" and corrupt Christ's message of suffering for others
"Penance does not mean you hurt yourself, because your body is a temple that houses the spirit," Archbishop Aniceto Paciano of San Fernando said.
During 2013's re-enactment, Auxiliary Bishop Pablo Virgilio David said that the church is no position to stop the practice, however.
"I do not think it is right to close our doors to them just because they are more attracted to these folk practices than to our Roman liturgy which they may find too foreign or cerebral."
Bishop Joel Baylon of Legazpi, chairman of the bishops' commission on youth, added that there are "other forms of sacrifice and suffering that would lead to real conversion."
"The Lord appreciates all these forms of sacrifices, but sometimes the kind of sacrifice that we impose on ourselves is not what the Lord wants us to do," Baylon said.
Melvin Pangilinan, one of the organizers of the event last year, said that the participants are aware that priests do not agree that they should be doing such a re-enactment, but insisted that "it has been our tradition for decades and we have to honor it."