The Diocese of Kidapawan in North Cotabato is retaining the practice of placing blessed ashes on the foreheads of Catholics tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, instead of sprinkling them on the top of the recipient’s head as suggested by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo of Kidapawan issued his own guideline for the Diocese of Kidapawan concerning liturgical practices to be observed during Lent in light of the CBCP guidelines issued in reaction to the deadly 2019 novel coronavirus respiratory disease (COVID-19)

In a post in the Diocese of Kidapawan’s official Facebook page, Bagaforo said the diocese is retaining the “practice of placing ashes on the foreheads” of those who would receive them in the diocese.

For Good Friday, during the Veneration of the cross, “kissing of the cross is not prohibited but the faithful has the option to touch it or venerate it with a solemn vow,” Bagaforo said.

The CBCP released a circular on February 20, recommending the sprinkling or dropping small portions of blessed ash on the crown of the head of the recipient during the Imposition of Ashes on Ash Wednesday.

The CBCP circular also strongly recommended against kissing or touching the cross during the Celebration of the Passion of the Lord on Good Friday to prevent the spread of any virus. The public is requested to genuflect or make a profound bow instead.

Bagaforo added that there are no suspensions of Masses and Holy week services as opposed to the decision of the Diocese of Hong Kong and the Archdiocese of Singapore who opted to suspend all liturgical services in their dioceses and instead resort to live streaming the Masses. 

The bishops of Hong Kong and Singapore decided to suspend the public celebration of all Masses starting Saturday, February 15, to stop the spread of the COVID-19 which has infected tens of thousands and killed over a thousand, mostly in China.

Bagaforo earlier advised Filipinos to stay calm, observe cleanliness and pray for protection while the world faces the challenge of COVID-19.

“Cleanliness is next to Godliness. Live clean and take notice of DOH’s directives vs the virus and pray,” he said.

He repeated the same call in his Ash Wednesday guideline by enjoining everyone “to observe cleanliness and offer prayers vs corona virus.”  (Rommel F. Lopez)