Clergy told to sprinkle dry ashes instead of marking foreheads on Ash Wednesday

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 20 2020 03:44 PM

A priest puts ash on church goers as they observe the traditional Ash Wednesday rites ahead of the Holy Week at the Sto Domingo Church in Quezon City, February 14, 2018. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Thursday told clergymen to sprinkle dry ashes on the head instead of applying wet ashes on a person's forehead on Ash Wednesday in a bid to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). 

"This is not an innovation but in accord with the ancient practice of the Church," CBCP president Romulo Valles said in a statement.

“In Baptism, we have been anointed on the crown of the head. The ashes to be imposed on the crown signify our repentance from sin, which has marred the grace of Baptism."

The imposition of ashes with the sign of the cross on the forehead has been a tradition among Filipino Catholics during Ash Wednesday. In other parts of the world like in Rome, the sprinkling of dry ashes on the head is the more common practice. 

Ash Wednesday, which signals the start of Lent, will fall on Feb. 26 this year. The 40-day season is marked by intense prayer, fasting, and abstinence as preparations for the great feast of Easter. 

The CBCP also urged the public to refrain from kissing or touching the cross for veneration on Good Friday, which falls on April 10.

"Instead the faithful are requested to genuflect or make a profound bow as they venerate the Cross," it said.

“As we begin the season of Lent, we are reminded of the constant call for renewal in our Christian life by self-control (fasting and abstinence), generosity and charity (almsgiving) and prayer. Our charity is also expressed in our concern for the well-being of our brothers and sisters, thus our utmost care and efforts towards the prevention of the spread of COVID-19."

The Philippines, a predominantly Catholic nation, has three confirmed cases of the COVID-19, so far, but has yet to record local transmission.