(PNA file photo)

MANILA – Manila Archbishop Jose Cardinal Advincula reminded the faithful that placing ashes on the forehead is a sign of the great love of the Lord.

"The ashes are imposed by making the sign of the cross to remind us that even if we are sinners, there is hope because we have been redeemed by Christ through his life-giving death on the cross," Advincula said in an interview over Church-run Radio Veritas on Ash Wednesday.

The Catholic Church is observing Ash Wednesday this year on March 2, the beginning of the 40-day preparation for the sacrifice, death, and resurrection of the Lord.

Advincula said it was a reminder to humanity that Lent was divided into two important features of the celebration the ‘penitential and baptismal’.

He encouraged the faithful to fast for 40 days of Lent and intensify prayer as a sign of conversion to God.

"The forty days of Lent spent in prayer and penance indicates that a Christian should spend his life in prayer and fasting from evil. There was a time when Lent was a period of preparing public penitents for reconciliation. The Lenten season was observed by all the faithful fasting, almsgiving, and prayers,” the Manila archbishop added.

He said the burning of old palms to be used on Ash Wednesday shows that everything in the world has a limit and a reminder of human sinfulness, therefore, inviting all to forsake evil and turn to God.

"The ashes come from burned old palms reminding us that" all earthly glory fades. The ashes tell us that we are sinners; that there is evil and darkness in the world because there is evil and darkness in our hearts,” Advincula added.

Meanwhile, the archbishop also joined Pope Francis' call for a day of prayer and fasting as solidarity and call for peace in Ukraine.

Earlier, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines called on the faithful to pray for the reconciliation of the leaders of Russia and Ukraine to achieve unity and prevent the escalation of tensions between the two countries. (PNA)