‘No-contact’ Ash Wednesday observed

Many Filipinos bowed their heads to be sprinkled instead of having a cross drawn on their foreheads to mark Ash Wednesday, as Asia’s bastion of Catholicism guarded against any further spread of Covid-19.

Leaders of the Philippine church urged priests to adapt the rite in order to reduce the risk of fanning a contagion that has killed over 2,700 people, mostly in China.

Since the outbreak, which has resulted in three confirmed cases and one death in the Philippines, churches have also discouraged worshippers from holding hands during mass.

“It makes me feel safe, ” said Wendy Tamidles, a 19-year-old student, of the latest measure.

She was among thousands of people, some wearing surgical masks, who lined up at Baclaran church in Manila for services yesterday.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, the run-up to Easter, and traditionally includes Catholics having crosses drawn in ash on their foreheads.

The Philippines is overwhelmingly Catholic, with some 80% of its people said to be believers.

Its unique brand of the religion also includes gruesome annual re-enactments of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

Local church officials have also “strongly recommended” that Catholics do not kiss or touch the cross during Good Friday services, which is usually common practice.

“We are being cautious so that the Covid-19 virus won’t spread, ” said Victorino Cueto, rector of Baclaran church. — AFP

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