Lab tests rule out sabotage behind Ash Wednesday burns

Lab tests rule out sabotage behind Ash Wednesday burns

A priest distributes ashes on Ash Wednesday in Manila. JOHANN MANGUSSAD

MANILA— A health lab has ruled out sabotage behind the ashes that caused adverse reaction into the forehead of churchgoers at the San Roque Cathedral in Caloocan City.

The culprit? Experts call it “overcooked charcoal” turned into “caustic ashes” that produced high acidity when mixed with water.

“We ruled out the possibility of a sabotage after reviewing the CCTV footages carefully,” said Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan.

Palm fronds are traditionally burned in earthen pots. But since there was a huge pile of palm fronds, the prelate said that the gradual adding of leaves led to over burning, producing dark charcoal but greyish ashes.

Fr. Jeronimo Cruz, the cathedral’s Rector, was among those who were shocked when churchgoers complained of adverse skin reactions after receiving the ashes during a special Mass to mark the start of Lent.

Ashes from the unusual incident were sent to a chemical laboratory for tests.

According to the bishop, not all were affected because the liquid part that turned acidic surfaced and became the cause for blisters.

“The rest who got just moist ashes suffered only minor rashes that disappeared as soon as the substance was washed off,” David said.

“What matters for us is that we are able to apply the proper medication—silver sulfadiazine on people who have been affected,” he added. CBCPNews