Priests to sprinkle ash on forehead on Ash Wednesday

Published January 13, 2021, 6:33 PM

by Leslie Ann Aquino

Instead of placing them on the forehead, Catholic priests will sprinkle ashes on the head of the faithful during the observance of Ash Wednesday next month.

Catholic prelates said priests did the same thing last year as a precautionary measure amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We will just do the sprinkling which goes back to ancient times,” Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco said in an interview Wednesday.

“We actually did that already last Ash Wednesday 2020,” said Caloocan Bishop Pablo David.

During Ash Wednesday, Catholics have their foreheads marked with ashes as a sign of penance.

Archdiocese of Manila apostolic administrator Bishop Broderick Pabillo said the sprinkling of ashes on the head is actually the original way. 

He added that in the Bible and in many churches in the world, the ashes are put on the top of the head, not on the forehead. 

Vatican News said the Congregation for Divine Worship has released a note on how Catholic priests are to distribute the ashes at the start of Lent this year amid the health situation.

Based on the guidelines, priests will bless the ashes and sprinkle it with holy water in silence, and recite once the formula found in the Roman Missal: “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” or “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”.

The note said the priest then “cleanses his hands, puts on a face mask, and distributes ashes to those who come to him or, if appropriate, he goes to those who are standing in their places.”

The priest sprinkles the ashes on each person’s head without saying anything,” Vatican News said.

Pabillo said they are still awaiting instruction from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

Catholics will usher in the start of the Lenten season with Ash Wednesday on Feb. 17.