MANILA (AFP) — Philippine health officials Wednesday warned people taking part in Easter crucifixions and self-flagellation rituals to get a tetanus shot first and sterilise the nails to avoid infections.
Every Good Friday in this predominately Roman Catholic Southeast Asian nation dozens of men re-enact the crucifixion of Jesus Christ by having themselves nailed to wooden crosses.
At the same time hundreds of others, mostly men, strip to the waist and whip themselves until their backs are cut and bloody as a way of atoning for their sins over the past year.
The Catholic church frowns upon the crucifixions and self flagellations which have become a tourist attraction in a number of towns around the country.
The department of health issued a health warning advising people taking part in the rituals this Friday to have tetanus shots and to check the condition of the whip they will use before lashing their backs.
It warned that dirty whips could lead to tetanus and other infections.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque said that as was hard to discourage "flagellants from whipping their own flesh, the best penitents can do is ensure that their whips are well-maintained."
According to the Manila Times, in San Fernando City, Pampanga, some 23 people, including two women, plan to reenact the crucifixion on Friday.
"We are not trying to go against the Lenten tradition here because whipping has somewhat already become some form of 'atonement for sins' for some of us," Duque said.
"But this advice is important to make sure that no one will land in the hospital due to tetanus or other infections that penitents might get in the process," he said.
The health department has also warned that the six-inch (15-centimetre) nails used in crucifixions should be sterilised.
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