Catholics in the Archdiocese of Detroit will experience a new — or, rather, very old — rite of penitence this year on Ash Wednesday.
Because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has asked dioceses around the world to use an alternative formula for the traditional imposition of ashes.
“We’re used to the thumb-to-forehead method with the cross as our way of distributing ashes. That is not forbidden (this year), but the Holy See has said that due to the coronavirus, it is recommending and advising that ashes be distributed through sprinkling instead,” said Fr. Stephen Pullis, director of evangelization and missionary discipleship for the Archdiocese of Detroit.
Instead of individual prayers over each person, the priest may instead pray once over the whole congregation, either “Repent, and believe in the Gospel,” or “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Priests may use a Q-tip to make the sign of the cross on people’s foreheads, but penitents should not “self-impose” ashes.
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