With the difficulties posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines on Ash Wednesday called on the Filipino faithful to be more merciful and compassionate as the Lenten season begins.
CBCP President Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles highlighted the importance of bearing one's challenges in life and inspiring others to do the same with the faith that there is a silver lining after all of the suffering.
"My hope and prayer during these very trying times because of the pandemic and its multifaceted negative consequences affecting all of us, is that we come to a deeper appreciation of our being configured to Christ," Valles said in the CBCP 2021 Lenten message.
"To be reconfigured to Christ concretely means to do deeds of mercy and compassion, simply carrying our own cross and helping and inspiring others to carry theirs. During Lent we are inspired and reminded to carry our cross with confidence and with hope that we will triumph in the end," he said.
Ash Wednesday marks the start of Lent, when the Catholic faithful are told to fast, pray, and practice abstinence for 40 days. It ends on Easter Sunday, which commemorates Jesus Christ's resurrection.
Usually, priests mark the foreheads of churchgoers with ashes on Ash Wednesday as a symbol of repentance for sins.
But the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted the Catholic Church to modify the traditional ritual, with priests sprinkling ashes on top of the heads of churchgoers on Wednesday instead.
MORE ON RELIGION:
'Hiddenness should fulfill righteousness'
For the Ash Wednesday mass in the Manila Cathedral, Vice Rector Kali Llamado reminded the Catholic faithful that even though the symbol of ash is not visible this year, it should not be used as an excuse to do wrong.
"Hiddenness should not need you to hide and do evil things. Hiddenness said Jesus should always fulfill righteousness," he said.
Archbishop Valles also reminded the faithful to help those in need, especially with the challenges posed by the pandemic.
"Together with our prayers, our fasting, and our participation in the solemn liturgical celebrations, we also exert earnest effort at doing works of charity and solidarity with those who are most suffering among us in these difficult days of the pandemic," he said.