Philippine penitents perform Easter rites despite coronavirus

MANILA (Reuters) - Some Catholic penitents flagellated themselves and prayed outside closed churches in the Philippines to commemorate the death of Jesus on Good Friday, despite strict government orders for people to stay indoors to contain the coronavirus.

The capital, Manila, and many parts of the Catholic-majority Southeast Asian country have been in “enhanced community quarantine”, but that did not stop some devotees from doing their annual penitence for Lent.

“We are here because we want the spread of COVID-19 to end and we pray that things in our country will go back to normal,” said Edward Degusano, who joined a self-flagellation ritual outside a church in Manila.

COVID-19 is the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, which emerged in central China late last year and has spread around the world, infecting some 1.6 million people and killing nearly 100,000 of them.

The Philippines has recorded 4,195 coronavirus cases, with its death toll reaching 221 on Friday.

Bishops in Manila suspended services for the Holy Week due to the lockdown, which began in mid-March.

The Catholic church has expressed disapproval of the self-punishments, saying prayers and sincere repentance are enough for sins to be forgiven.

But many Catholics in the Philippines perform religious penance during the week leading up to Easter as a form of worship and supplication, believing that the ritual can even cure illnesses and make wishes come true.

Reporting by Jay Ereno and Adrian Portugal; Writing by Enrico Dela Cruz; Editing by Robert Birsel