Philippine bishop orders probe into Ash Wednesday burns

Some Mass-goers reported feeling a burning sensation on their foreheads
Philippine bishop orders probe into Ash Wednesday burns

Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan spreads ash on the forehead of a Mass-goer on Ash Wednesday. (Photo by Jire Carreon)

A bishop in the Philippine capital Manila has ordered an investigation into reports that several Mass-goers developed rashes after having their foreheads marked with ash on Ash Wednesday.

Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan said a thorough investigation will be carried out, and even suggested the ashes used might have been purposely contaminated.

"Rest assured that we will not leave a single stone unturned in order to find out what caused this unfortunate incident," said the prelate.

Bishop David said several Mass-goers reported feeling a burning sensation on their foreheads immediately after being marked. When the people washed the ashes off, rashes and blisters appeared on their skin.

The ashes in question were not used after reports were received.

Doctors who examined the rashes said a chemical substance caused the skin burns. The ashes are still being tested in a laboratory.

Bishop David said his office is still investigating whether staff had done something with the ashes, although they maintained that nothing out of tradition was done.

"The fact that only some and not all the Mass-goers seem to have been adversely affected by the ashes could only mean that only some specific containers contained the toxic substance, and not all of them," said the prelate.

He has already ordered a review of close-circuit television footage to look for possible "sabotage."

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