Coronavirus Causing Ash Wednesday Fears Among Catholics

Date: 2020-02-26 20:30:48

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Pope Francis celebrated the Ash Wednesday ritual that marks the opening of the Catholic Church’s Lenten season in traditional fashion while greeting the public in Rome as other Masses were canceled in northern Italy over fears of the coronavirus outbreak.

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Francis and a long line of priests, bishops and cardinals walked in a procession through Rome’s Aventine hill into the 5th-century Santa Sabina basilica for a late-afternoon Mass. Neither the priests nor the faithful wore face masks, but Rome has largely been spared the virus as Italy’s national case count grew to 400.

Other Catholic countries took Ash Wednesday precautions. In the Philippines — Asia’s only majority Roman Catholic country — priests sprinkled ashes on the heads of the faithful rather than making the mark of the cross on their foreheads to avoid physical contact.

“Wherever the ash is placed, on the forehead or on the head, the feeling is the same, it’s uplifting,” Editha Lorenzo, a 49-year-old mother of two wearing a face mask, told The Associated Press in Manila.

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