Caution, cancellations mark Ash Wednesday in time of virus

Pope Francis kisses a child in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican before leaving after his weekly general audience, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has celebrated the Ash Wednesday ritual kicking off the Catholic Church’s Lenten season, despite fears of coronavirus. Francis and a long line of priests, bishops and cardinals processed through Rome’s Aventine hill into the 5th century Santa Sabina basilica for the late afternoon Mass. Neither the priests nor the faithful were wearing masks, but Rome has largely been spared Italy’s outbreak so far.In the Philippines — Asia’s only majority Roman Catholic country — priests sprinkled ashes on the heads of the faithful rather than making the mark of the cross on their foreheads to avoid physical contact.