Pope observes usual Ash Wednesday customs in time of virus

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has celebrated the Ash Wednesday ritual in traditional fashion despite fears of the coronavirus outbreak in Italy.

Francis and a long line of priests, bishops and cardinals walked through Rome’s Aventine hill and 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.

Other Masses were canceled in northern Italy, where most of the country’s 400 cases are clustered.

Other Catholic countries took Ash Wednesday precautions.

In the Philippines, priests sprinkled ashes on the heads of the faithful rather than making the mark of the cross on people’s foreheads.

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