Ash Wednesday services will look different for Christian churches around the world this year due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In January, the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments requested that priests take extra health and safety precautions when distributing ashes to parishioners.
In a Jan. 12 note, the congregation wrote that priests should bless the ashes — which are made from the palm fronds used at the prior year’s Palm Sunday service — and sprinkle them with holy water before reciting the Roman Missal.
POPE MOVES AHEAD WITH PLANS TO MEET SHIITE LEADER IN IRAQ
“The priest then cleanses his hands, puts on a face mask and distributes the ashes to those who come to him or, if appropriate, he goes to those who are standing in their places,” the note from Cardinal Robert Sarah and Archbishop Arthur Roche instructs. “The priest takes the ashes and sprinkles them on the head of each one without saying anything.”
In a year without the coronavirus, the ashes would be placed on the forehead of the individual or drawn in a small cross during Mass.
President Biden, a lifelong Catholic, annually receives a cross on his forehead.
The ashes symbolize death and repentance for those who observe the day, which marks the beginning of the Lenten period in the days leading up to Easter Sunday.
But, that won’t be the only change for congregants.
In the Phillippines, Catholics observed Ash Wednesday wearing mandatory masks and face shields.
Alterations will be especially apparent in the United States, where the virus has killed more than 488,900 Americans.
Like in Ireland, many places of worship will offer DIY or “takeaway ashes” for at-home application, which include instructions and a prayer.
Some will provide in-person services with limited headcounts — in the state of New York, guidelines restrict religious gatherings to 50% capacity with proper social distancing — or multiple time slots.
WASHINGTON STATE CHURCH RAISES $300,000 TO WIPE AWAY MEDICAL BURDEN FOR FAMILIES ACROSS THE NORTHWEST
Others will hold services outdoors — despite the deadly Arctic chill freezing parts of the country — or offer drive-thru “fast” ashes, using the back of the hand, or curbside pickup.
Many churches have managed to operate using a hybrid system over the past few months — both online and in-person worship.
The 12 p.m. ET Mass at the famed St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City distributed ashes and the event was livestreamed.
Some services will be held using the videoconferencing application Zoom, which gained popularity over the last year and has since become a staple for businesses with employees working from home and families separated by the pandemic.
Some ceremonies will be more creative. St. Thomas Church in Southington, Conn. and the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas in Philadelphia are using Q-tips for ash application.
Washington D.C.’s St. Mark’s Episcopal Church will reportedly host an art project where people send words for a banner created with dust and as it washes away, congregants re-create it throughout the 40 days of Lent.
Pennellville United Methodist Church in New York announced via Facebook that it would symbolically make ashes, burning confessions in a fire pit with services broadcast over the radio.
CLICK HERE FOR THE FOX NEWS APP
Christ Lutheran Church in Minnesota will pass out stickers with crosses on them
“The mission goes on, God’s love goes on whether it’s a pandemic or not,” Pastor Steve Rheingans told KAAL on Wednesday. “And the mission that he’s called us to continues even if it’s done in different ways.”