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No foreheads marked with ashy crosses: How the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland is adjusting Ash Wednesday services with COVID-19 precautions

Ash Wednesday marks the start of Lent.

CLEVELAND — Ash Wednesday has arrived, but the religious observance will be different this year due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns. The Catholic Diocese of Cleveland says they will offer an adjusted procedure for the reception of ashes during Mass.

“The priest will cleanse his hands, put on his face mask and distribute ashes to the faithful, but instead of marking each forehead with a cross he will sprinkle ashes on the head of each person without saying anything, thus avoiding physical contact.”

The priest will also bless the ashes with holy water all at once. Although this method of distributing ashes is a common practice in other countries, the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland says it is not well known here in the United States.

In-person Mass will be held at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in downtown Cleveland at 7:15 a.m., noon and 7 p.m. The service will also be streamed live online HERE.

RELATED: Pope starts Lent season with Ash Wednesday ceremony

“Ash Wednesday comes from the ancient tradition of penance and fasting,” the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland explains. “The practice includes the wearing of ashes on the head. The ashes symbolize the dust from which God made us. As the priest applies the ashes to a person, he speaks the words: ‘Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.’ Priests and deacons administer ashes during Mass and the faithful are invited to accept the ashes as a visible symbol of penance.”

It also marks the start of Lent, which is a season of prayer and repentance.

“It is also a time of preparation for the celebration of the paschal mystery – of Jesus’ passion, death, resurrection and ascension.”

This year Easter is Sunday, April 4.

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