In this March 6, 2019 photo, devotees queue as they receive ash from priests, nuns and lay ministers.
The STAR/Miguel de Guzman, File
CBCP advises against ash crosses amid COVID-19 threat
Gaea Katreena Cabico ( - February 20, 2020 - 3:37pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has recommended doing away with marking foreheads with ash for Lent because of the risk posed by the deadly coronavirus disease COVID-19.

This comes a week before millions of Catholics flock to churches in the country to observe Ash Wednesday, which marks the start of the Lenten season.

CBCP issued a circular Thursday recommending that ashes be imposed by sprinkling a small portion of ash on the crown of a person's head. 

CBCP president Romulo Valles said this is not an innovation but “in accord with the ancient practice of the Church.”

“In Baptism, we have been anointed on the crown of the head. The ashes to be imposed on the crown signify our repentance from sin, which has marred the grace of Baptism,” the archbishop of Davao explained. 

Refrain from kissing, touching cross

The CBCP president also urged Catholics to refrain from kissing or touching the cross of veneration during the Celebration of the Passion of the Lord.

“Instead the faithful are requested to genuflect or make a profound bow as they venerate the cross,” he said.

Catholics are encouraged to observe fasting and abstinence during the 40-day Lenten season.

Church officials in Hong Kong decided to suspend public Masses on Sundays and weekdays for two weeks and cancel the liturgy on Ash Wednesday. 

The Philippines has three confirmed cases of COVID-19—including the first fatality outside mainland China. The country’s first coronavirus patient was discharged from the hospital weeks ago, while the third confirmed case returned to China.

The illness has killed over 2,000 and infected more than 74,000 people across China. Hundreds more cases were reported in nearly 30 countries.

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