Chinese Catholics exempted from abstinence on Ash Wednesday
MANILA, February 5, 2008— Chinese Catholics in Manila have been dispensed from fasting and abstinence in observance of Ash Wednesday this year.
Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales granted the exemption following a request from the Chinese community as Ash Wednesday falls on the new lunar year’s eve on Thursday. In his circular letter dated Jan. 16, Rosales gave the dispensation “in the spirit of pastoral solidarity with our Catholic Chinese and Chinese-Filipino brothers and sisters.”
“In solidarity with the whole church however, I request that those dispensed on Ash Wednesday will observe fasting and abstinence on the first Friday of lent (Feb. 8),” he said.
The request was coursed through Msgr. Bong Lo, who is the vicar for the Chinese and Chinese-Filipino Catholic community.
In Chinese culture, ashes symbolically represent pain and suffering and many Chinese Catholics do not want to receive such on a day of rejoicing.
The Chinese New Year falls on Ash Wednesday, a day of fasting and abstinence that ushers the season of lent.
After the Vatican II, the Church allowed the Catholic faithful of different countries to observe cultural holidays.
Fr. Genaro Diwa, of the Manila archdiocese’s liturgical affairs said that Chinese believers can receive a special dispensation to observe the ritual another day.
“That is to respect there cultural celebration so the Church gives in but they have to know that they are still obliged as Chinese Catholics,” said Diwa.
Chinese Catholics may not even want to receive ashes that day because the words “Remember man, you are dust and to dust you will return” are antithetical to the New Year practices, where death and mourning are not brought up.
Similarly, the solemn clothing appropriate for Mass goes against the New Year sense where the colors for penitents—black or white—are avoided. (Roy Lagarde)