In his blog, Pabillo said while the measures being undertaken to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in the country would cause alterations on how Catholics observe Lent, he reminded the faithful that these are merely external practices.
Manila Cathedral/Jason Molinas
Catholics urged: Don’t be sidetracked by COVID-19
Evelyn Macairan (The Philippine Star) - February 21, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Archdiocese of Manila apostolic administrator Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo urged the Catholic faithful not to be sidetracked from the essence of the coming Lenten season, which is grace and conversion, despite the impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) that could affect some Catholic practices during Lent.

In his blog, Pabillo said while the measures being undertaken to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in the country would cause alterations on how Catholics observe Lent, he reminded the faithful that these are merely external practices.  

On Feb. 26, some dioceses such as Kalookan and Cubao might not practice the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday. 

To avoid physical contact during Ash Wednesday, church officials are considering just sprinkling ash on the top of a penitent’s head instead of the usual practice of daubing ash with holy water on a person’s forehead. 

Government officials have cautioned the public against going to public gatherings to avoid the spread of COVID-19, including Lenten events such as the Way of the Cross processions and the Kumpisalang Bayan. 

Pabillo said this global health situation caused by COVID-19 should not stop the faithful from praying and giving alms to the poor and the afflicted. 

“There may be changes in some of the church practices that we do, but let us not be side-tracked by these discussions from the real meaning of the season of Lent which is a season of grace and conversion. Let us go to the core meaning of our rites rather than be confused by changed external practices,” said Pabillo. 

The placing of ashes on a person’s forehead during Ash Wednesday is a call for humility and repentance. It should serve as a reminder that from dust you came and to dust you shall return. 

“Humility and repentance are the essence and these should not be lost in whatever form the ash is imposed on us,” said Pabillo.

He explained that Ash Wednesday is the start of the season of Lent, the 40-day period of penance, prayer and almsgiving that prepares us for the great event of our salvation: the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus (called the Paschal Mystery) which we all participated in during our baptism. 

“This season asks us to take seriously our baptismal commitment to die to sin and to live for God by following Jesus,” Pabillo said. 

The prelate also said, “Ash Wednesday then is not just a one-time event. It ushers us to a season of renewal.”

In order to renew ourselves, Catholics should exercise self-control such as through fasting and abstinence from eating meat; by being generous and offering more alms to the poor and by prayer. 

“These three are related to each other. By saying no to ourselves (penance), we are able to say yes to others (almsgiving) and to God (prayer). Let us not be sidetracked by the corona virus in living the season of grace this Lent,” he added.

 

AUXILIARY BISHOP BRODERICK PABILLO
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