THE Roman Catholic Church marks today the start of the Lenten season as the faithful flock to churches to observe Ash Wednesday, which is traditionally marked by the placing of ashes on the foreheads.
But due to the threat of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), followers who will attend mass for the religious occasion will leave churches sans the cross ashes on their brows.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has issued Circular Circular No. 20-06 recommending that on Ash Wednesday, ashes will be imposed on the faithful by sprinkling a small portion of the blessed ash on the crown of the head of the faithful.
“The ashes to be imposed on the crown signify our repentance from sin, which has marred the grace of Baptism. This is not an innovation but in accord with the ancient practice of the Church,” said the CBCP.
The CBCP said the recommendation is in order to reduce the risk of transmission of the COVID-19 virus.
Ash Wednesday is observed by fasting, abstinence, and repentance. It is customarily marked by the placing of the cross sign using holy ashes on the foreheads of the faithful, with priests saying the words, “Repent and believe in the Gospel” or “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
CBCP – Commission on the Laity Chairman Bishop Broderick Pabillo said the recently adopted modifications in the Lenten practices should not be seen as altering the essence of the religious occasion.
The prelate said Lent will always be the season of grace and conversion with or without COVID-19.
“More than where the ash is imposed and in what manner, the meaning is the same. The ashes imposed on us is a call to humility and repentance,” Pabillo said, adding: “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.”