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Ash Wednesday will look different this year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic

The Vatican has issued new guidelines for the holy day with the rising number of COVID-19 cases in mind.
Credit: AP
In this Feb. 26, 2020 photo, a a student from the St Joh Paul II Catholic High School gets his repentance ashes placed on his forehead during Ash Wednesday Mass at the St. Thomas Aquinas church in Phoenix, Ariz. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-MIlls)

TAMPA, Fla — Throughout the past year, events have been canceled, postponed, or adjusted to meet coronavirus safety guidelines, and Ash Wednesday is no exception.

The Vatican has issued new guidelines for the holy day with the rising number of COVID-19 cases in mind.

Typically, a priest or deacon uses ashes to make the sign of the cross on people's foreheads, but this year parishes have been given a few options for distributing ashes.

Priests may take the traditional route and use their thumbs or cotton balls to mark people's foreheads, according to Bishop Gregory Parkes from the Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg. 

They may also choose to sprinkle ashes on top of parishioners' heads. Bishop Parkes says this method is not common in the U.S. but is used widely in Italy and other European countries.

The priest will bless the ashes all at once instead of individually speaking to and blessing everyone.

While this year is different, the symbolism of the holy day remains the same. 

Ash Wednesday represents mortality and repentance and marks the beginning of Lent for Catholics all over the world.

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