Scranton Diocese: Ash Wednesday will look different due to COVID-19
SCRANTON – Due to the pandemic, Ash Wednesday, Feb. 17, will look different this year, according to a news release from the Scranton Diocese on Thursday. Ashes can be distributed to the Catholic faithful as long as there is no direct contact. Parishes
have been asked to select one of two possible options for the distribution of ashes on Feb. 17.
1. Ashes can be sprinkled on top of the head
In much of the world, the normal way of distributing ashes is to sprinkle ashes on top of the
head, with no contact, rather than imposing them on the forehead. During distribution, both the
minister and the recipient must be wearing masks.
For this distribution method, the priest will say the prayer for blessing the ashes. He will sprinkle
the ashes with holy water, without saying anything. Then he will address all those present and
only once say the call to repentance (“Repent, and believe in the Gospel” or “Remember that
you are dust, and to dust you shall return”). The minister will then take the ashes and sprinkle
them on the head of each individual without saying anything.
2. Ashes can be distributed using an individual Q-tip type of cotton swab
For this distribution method, the minister would use an individual cotton swab for each recipient
to distribute ashes. With the cotton tip, the minister will trace a cross on the recipient’s
forehead. Both the minister and recipient must be properly wearing masks during the
distribution. A new Q-tip cotton swab must be used for each person. After the use, each swab
will be placed in a receptacle for burning.
Although not a Holy Day of Obligation, Ash Wednesday is traditionally a day of great importance to the
faithful as they enter the Lenten season. The faithful are reminded that receiving ashes is not required.
Parishioners should recognize that their own internal disposition and intention to repent is the
importance of Ash Wednesday and that the ashes are an external sign of that internal reality. Individuals
who cannot receive ashes can still enter into Lent with a repentant heart.
For a list of scheduled Ash Wednesday services across the 11-counties of the Diocese of Scranton, visit
www.dioceseofscranton.org. A complete set of guidelines for Liturgical Celebrations during the Season
of Lent can also be found on the Diocesan website.