Authorities warn about dangers of crucifixion rituals

Health officials in the Philippines have issued a warning to the public regarding the crucifixion and self-flagellation rituals which abound at Easter.

It is not uncommon in many Roman Catholic Southeast Asian nations for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ to be re-enacted with dozens of men having themselves nailed to wooden crosses.

Hundreds of others, again 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.

These gruesome events have to some extent become almost a form of theatre which attracts hordes of tourist even though they are not sanctioned by the Roman Catholic Church.

This year Philippine health officials are warning people taking part in the Easter rituals to have a tetanus shot first and to also sterilise the six-inch (15-centimetre) nails they intend to use to avoid infections.

They also advise that the condition of the whip is checked before people begin lashing their backs and warn that dirty whips and nails could lead to tetanus and other infections; the rituals also involve walking barefoot for several kilometres.

The Health department says as it is hard to discourage such rituals and the best they can do is warn and advise about the risk of infection.

Officials say the advice is important to ensure no one ends up in hospital due to tetanus or other infections.

Lent, the 40 days of fasting and prayer preceding Easter, is a major holiday in the Philippines, where more than 80 per cent of the population is Roman Catholic.

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