Pope Francis Marks Ash Wednesday Masks-Free as Some Italian Cities Cancel Providers Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

Pope Francis Marks Ash Wednesday Mask-Free as Some Italian Towns Cancel Services Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

(VATICAN CITY) — Pope Francis celebrated the Ash Wednesday ritual kicking off the Catholic Church’s Lenten season in conventional style, whereas different Lots in northern Italy have been canceled over fears of the brand new coronavirus.

Francis and an extended line of clergymen, bishops and cardinals processed by way of Rome’s Aventine hill into the Fifth-century Santa Sabina basilica for the late-afternoon Mass. Neither the clergymen nor the trustworthy have been sporting masks, and so they all exchanged an indication of peace towards the top of the liturgy. However Rome has largely been spared Italy’s outbreak up to now.

Different Catholic international locations took precautions. Within the Philippines — Asia’s solely majority Roman Catholic nation — clergymen sprinkled ashes on the heads of the trustworthy somewhat than making the mark of the cross on their foreheads.

“Wherever the ash is positioned, on the brow or on the top, the sensation is similar, it’s uplifting,” Editha Lorenzo, a 49-year-old mom of two sporting a face masks, instructed The Related Press in Manila.

On the Vatican, Francis held his normal viewers as typical in St. Peter’s Sq. and despatched his prayers to victims of the virus and the medical personnel treating them. A handful of the hundreds of individuals gathered wore face masks to guard in opposition to the virus, which originated in China and has contaminated hundreds globally together with greater than 300 folks in Italy.

Francis kissed no less than one baby as he looped by way of the sq. in his popemobile and made some extent to shake fingers with the trustworthy sitting within the entrance row. Normally, he solely waves. He additionally greeted prelates with a handshake at the start and finish of the gathering, but it surely appeared most clergy have been refraining from kissing Francis’ ring or embracing him, as they usually would do.

“I wish to once more categorical my closeness to these affected by the coronavirus and the well being care staff who’re treating them, in addition to the civil authorities and all those that are working to assist sufferers and cease the contagion,” Francis stated.

Whereas Francis went forward along with his Ash Wednesday plans as typical, the patriarchate of Venice canceled the Mass scheduled for St. Mark’s Basilica, after a handful of aged folks within the lagoon metropolis examined constructive for the virus. The encompassing Veneto area is dwelling to the second major cluster of instances in Italy.

Within the Philippines, the Rev. Victorino Cueto, rector of the favored Nationwide Shrine of our Mom of Perpetual Assist in the Manila metropolis, stated the apply of sprinkling ash on heads of devotees was a precaution to stop the unfold of infections however truly is an outdated custom primarily based on the Outdated Testomony.

“It’s higher to be cautious,” stated churchgoer Evet Accion.

On Good Friday, which marks Christ’s loss of life on the cross, bishops within the Philippines strongly advised that churchgoers chorus from kissing or touching the cross, a typical apply amongst Catholics. “As a substitute, the trustworthy are requested to genuflect or make a profound bow as they venerate the cross,” stated Archbishop Romulo Valles, who heads the bishops’ convention.

Final month, the bishops really helpful that Catholics obtain the Eucharistic host by the hand as a substitute of the mouth and keep away from holding fingers in prayer throughout Lots as precautions amid the viral scare.


Gomez reported from Manila, Philippines.