Instead of imposing ashes on the forehead on Ash Wednesday, priests will sprinkle ashes on the head of people in compliance with new guidelines for the observance during the pandemic.
“We will just do the sprinkling that goes back to ancient times,” said Bishop Honesto Ongtioco of Cubao.
“We actually did that already last Ash Wednesday 2020,” said Bishop Pablo David of Kalookan, saying it was done as a precaution against the spread of the new coronavirus disease.
Bishop Broderick Pabillo, apostolic administrator of Manila, said the sprinkling of ashes on the head of the faithful the practice during ancient times.
He said that based on the stories in the Bible and as practiced in many churches, ashes are placed on top of the head, not on the forehead.
The Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship released this week a note laying out the procedures that priests have to follow during Ash Wednesday observance this year.
The Vatican office noted that the health situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic has forced changes even in the rituals and celebrations of the Church.
The guidelines urged priests to bless the ashes and sprinkle them with holy water in silence.
The priest then addresses those present, reciting once the formula found in the Roman Missal: “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” or “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
At that point, the note continued, the priest “cleanses his hands, puts on a face mask, and distributes ashes to those who come to him or, if appropriate, he goes to those who are standing in their places.”
He then sprinkles the ashes on each person’s head “without saying anything.”
The note was signed by Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, and its secretary, Archbishop Arthur Roche.
In 2020, the congregation issued various instructions for priests on administering the sacraments and offering Mass during the coronavirus pandemic, including for the celebration of Easter.
Ash Wednesday, which falls on February 17 this year, is a Christian holy day of prayer and fasting and marks the start of the Season of Lent for the Catholic Church.