Diocesan News

Diocese Returns to Traditional Distribution of Ashes 

In a sign of the return of normalcy as the pandemic winds down, priests in the Diocese of Brooklyn will distribute ashes the time-honored way this year. (Photo: Unsplash)

By The Tablet Staff

PROSPECT HEIGHTS — Priests in the Diocese of Brooklyn will resume placing ashes on the foreheads of the faithful this Ash Wednesday, March 2 — a tradition that was shelved last year in the wake of concerns about the spread of COVID-19.

Bishop Robert Brennan sent a memo to pastors on Feb. 4 informing them of the policy. In 2021, priests did not touch foreheads but instead sprinkled ashes over each person’s head. 

[Related: Lenten Regulations 2022]

“This year, we would like to return to the normal method of distribution,” the memo from Bishop Brennan reads.

Safety precautions will still be taken. 

The diocese, being aware that fears of contracting COVID-19 are still felt by many people, has said it will be acceptable if a person does not wish to receive ashes applied on their forehead and would prefer that the ashes be sprinkled on their head instead.

Last year, heading into Ash Wednesday, the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments published a note directing priests to take special pandemic-related precautions by sprinkling ashes on heads instead of making the Sign of the Cross with the ashes on foreheads.

The diocese confirmed that the traditional practice of having the priest repeat the phrase “Repent and believe in the Gospel” or “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return” to each individual will be observed.

Last year, the Vatican had suggested halting the practice in favor of reciting it once for the entire congregation before distributing the ashes overhead in silence.