WITH Lent starting on Ash Wednesday next week, political aspirants are urged to abstain from political mudslinging, said a church official yesterday.

Ash Wednesday, which falls on Feb. 17, is a time for fasting and repentance for all Catholics, said Msgr. Esteban Binghay.

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Aside from Catholics, he added, aspiring politicians who will be courting votes from now until May 8 should respect the sanctity of the Lenten Season.

“If Catholics are obliged to fast and abstain during Lent, political aspirants are also urged to fast and abstain from telling lies, overspending and buying votes,” said Binghay.

He asked candidates to refrain from mudslinging.

Ash Wednesday, which commemorates Jesus Christ’s entry to Jerusalem, reminds everyone, including those in power and those aspiring for power, that life is temporary, said Binghay.

“Remember, man, you are dust and to dust you shall return,” he said.

Binghay, a Canon lawyer, said that Ash Wednesday opens the Lenten Season and is a time for Catholics to fast or abstain from eating meat on Fridays or even eating more. The sick and those too young or too old are exempted from this practice.

On the eve of Ash Wednesday, parishes collect palms, usually from the previous year’s Palm Sunday, and burn them down to ashes. These are then used to mark the foreheads of the faithful.

As the priest makes a cross of ash on one’s forehead, he says, “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.”

Palm Sunday is celebrated after 40 days to open the Holy Week; this year, that week begins on March 28 and ends on Easter Sunday, April 4.

In celebrating Lent, Binghay said, Catholics are urged to practice self-sacrifice and self-denial, and to do away with things that are unimportant.