MANILA - Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz said the Vatican is now studying the law on fasting and abstinence, specifically for the Philippines.
He said both the Congregation of the Faith and the Congregation of the Liturgy is making the study.
Ash Wednesday signals the start of the 40-day liturgical period of Lent, where Christ's suffering and death on the cross is remembered and meditated upon.
During this period, Catholics are encouraged to practice abstinence and penance for their sins. Fasting is also typically observed.
"The fasting norm is that we have to eat one full meal and two 1/2 or 1/4 meals a day and avoid pork and eat fish," Cruz explained.
"But it has come to the attention of the Vatican that during Fridays of Lent, a good number of people are very happy and rejoicing."
The church leader said that in lieu of eating meat, Filipinos would usually feast on expensive seafood like crabs, prawns and lobsters. This, he said, is not consistent with the idea of abstinence.
"The essence of abstinence is sacrifice: you experience some kind of discomfort for eating something that you don’t want or eating less than what you want."
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is set to come up with some suggestions and provisional practices on abstinence and fasting that will be preached during the upcoming masses.
The CBCP advised the laity to ask forgiveness not only for the sins committed but also for the good that they have failed to do.
Tomorrow, ash will be placed on the foreheads of Catholics as a sign of penance from sin. This is part of the observation of Ash Wednesday.
Cruz said the ash reminds Christians of their mortality.
"The sign of the ash is a reminder that from dust you came and from dust you shall return. It is also a reminder that man should not forget that even life has an ending, and so he better live his life well especially in loving God and his neighbors," Cruz said.