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Ash Wednesday Will Look Different This Year

Posted on February 11, 2021 in: News, Lent

Ash Wednesday Will Look Different This Year

Pandemic safety protocols bring changes to the distribution of ashes.

This year you will notice some differences in the distribution of ashes. The changes are being implemented during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic to ensure the safety of both the clergy and faithful.

Catholics around the world traditionally mark Ash Wednesday – the first day of Lent – by attending Mass and receiving consecrated ashes as a symbol of their duty to pray, fast and do charitable works (almsgiving). Ash Wednesday, which is not a holy day of obligation, falls on Feb. 17 this year.

However, a new procedure will be used. The priest will bless the ashes with holy water and then only once say one of the formulas from the Roman Missal – either “Repent, and believe in the Gospel,” or “Remember that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.”

The priest will cleanse his hands, put on his face mask and distribute ashes to the faithful by sprinkling ashes on the head of each person without saying anything.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Divine Worship noted that while this is a common practice in some countries, this form of distribution is not as well known in the US. There is no requirement for anyone to receive ashes.

Also, for those preparing to be received into the Church this year, the Rite of Election normally held at the Cathedral of St. Patrick has been CANCELLED due to Coronavirus restrictions. The various rites associated with the RCIA will take place in their individual parishes to the extent they are able.

As in the past we will once again offer a Lenten resource page on the diocesan website. This can be found at


Visit NorwichDiocese.org/Coronavirus for updates as they become available.

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