Changes coming to this year’s Ash Wednesday services

Local News

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) – On Ash Wednesday in 2020, before the pandemic changed public life as we know it, the Diocese of Sacramento hosted a traditional service outside the state Capitol.

Catholic priests and Bishop Jaime Soto delivered ashes to the foreheads of the faithful.

This typically involves using a thumb to make the shape of a cross.

“The main difference this year, especially for the faithful is going to be the difference in the way that the ashes are distributed,” said Diocese of Sacramento spokesman Bryan Visitacion.

Visitacion explains that because of the pandemic the Vatican issued modifications for the distribution of ashes.

“So this year, instead of the forehead, you’ll see the ashes sprinkled on the crowns of people’s heads,” Visitacion said.

The Diocese released a video demonstrating what the faithful can expect in any Catholic church.

“The priest will say the prayer for blessing the ashes. He will sprinkle the ashes with holy water without saying anything,” explained Fr. Brian Atienza. “Then he will address all those present and only once say the formula as it appears in the Roman missal, applying it to all in general.”

The formula consists of one of two phrases, which, in a normal year, would be recited to each person individually as they receive the ashes.

“You will hear him either say, ‘Repent and believe in the gospel,’ or ‘Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return,'” said Fr. Atienza.

“So you won’t hear that as you approach and get your ashes. The minister will say that beforehand,” Visitacion explained.

The priest will then cleanse his hands and put on a face mask, then he will distribute the ashes. The priest will take the ashes and sprinkle them on the heads of each person without saying anything.

“This method of distributing the ashes by sprinkling, rather than applying to the forehead is common in some countries and is intended to protect health,” Fr. Atienza said.

The number of people attending indoor services will be subject to local health regulations.

For parishes in the purple tier, that means 25% capacity.

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