Bishop warns Filipinos not to be sidetracked by virus fears

Church leaders announce that some Lenten rituals will have to be changed over epidemic concerns
Bishop warns Filipinos not to be sidetracked by virus fears

A woman wearing a face mask walks past a charms shop in the Binondo district of Chinatown in Manila. (Photo: AFP)

A Catholic bishop in Manila said fears of the dreaded coronavirus should not sidetrack the faithful from observance of Lent.

Church leaders in the Philippines have announced that some Lenten rituals, such as the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday, will have to be changed for fear of spreading the virus.

Catholics around the world will usher in the start of the Lenten season with the observance of Ash Wednesday on Feb. 26.

"Let us not be sidetracked by these discussions" said Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo. He said the faithful should not be confused by "changed external practices." "Let us go to the core meaning of our rites," he said.

Ash will be sprinkled on the heads of the faithful on Ash Wednesday instead of touching it against their foreheads.

"This is not the only way to do it, nor is it even the original way," said Bishop Pabillo, apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Manila.

He said that more than where the ash is imposed and in what manner, the meaning is the same — that is, a call to "humility and repentance."

"Thus while the dust is imposed on us, whether on top of the head or on the forehead, we are reminded of our lowly origin," said the bishop.

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

Bishop Pabillo also reminded the faithful that Ash Wednesday is not just a one-time event as it ushers everyone to a season of renewal.

"Let us not be sidetracked by the coronavirus in living the season of grace this Lent," said he added.

The Department of Health announced on Feb. 20 that more than a dozen new suspected cases of the Covid-19 strain have been recorded in the country.

Authorities said that 17 out of the cumulative total of 556 persons under investigation in the country were new additions to the list.

The number of persons under investigation in the country, however, continues to go down. Only about a quarter or 133 are still confined at various medical facilities.

Health officials also said that two out of the three confirmed cases of coronavirus have also been able to recover.

To date, there is still no reported local transmission of the virus, which has already infected almost 75,000 people and killed more than 2,120 in mainland China, where the outbreak originated.

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