Philippine bishop sheds light on Ash Wednesday burns

Probe finds charcoal turned into caustic ashes producing high acidity
Philippine bishop sheds light on Ash Wednesday burns

Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan in the Philippines has ruled out sabotage as the cause of skin rashes suffered by people who attended an Ash Wednesday ritual in his diocese. (Photo by Jire Carreon)

 

An investigation has ruled out sabotage as the cause of skin rashes from ashes used during an Ash Wednesday ritual in a Manila diocese last week.

Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan said the "mystery burns" people had on their foreheads after the ashes were administered were caused by acid.

A laboratory test found high level of acidity in the ashes due to "overburning."

"They call it overcooked charcoal that turned into caustic ashes that produced high acidity when mixed with water," said the prelate.

He said a similar incident was reported in Ireland several years ago.

Bishop David said the burning of a huge pile of palm fronds resulted in the "overburning" of ones on the bottom that produced grayish ashes instead of black charcoal.

"Not everybody was affected. Only those who received the acidic ashes had blisters," said the prelate.

After reviewing close-circuit television footage the possibility of sabotage was ruled out.

He said the parishioners who suffered blisters received proper medication.

Mass-goers reported feeling a burning sensation on their foreheads immediately after being marked with ashes last week. 

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