San Diego Churches Have A COVID-Safe Ash Wednesday
Wednesday, February 17, 2021
Photo by Jacob Aere
Ash Wednesday signifies the start of Lent for Christians worldwide.
Typically parishioners are able to receive ashes on their forehead, applied by the thumb of a priest, to mark the start of Lent.
But this year is a little different for many churches because of COVID-19.
“The prayer called the Prayer of Repentance, the prayer over the ashes, will be said only once. Then the people will come and we are using Q-tips to mark the cross on the people’s foreheads,” said Father Peter Navarra, a pastor at St. Joseph Cathedral.
The Vatican encouraged priests to offer the ashes with a contactless motion by sprinkling them on the top of parishioners’ heads, as Pope Francis did on Wednesday.
But the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego chose to have all their churches use Q-tips to apply the ashes.
St. Joseph Cathedral facility staffer Benito Gutierrez received his mark of the cross indoors.
“It feels good because it is a special day for Catholics,” Gutierrez said in Spanish. “It reminds us that we have to believe in the gospel, repent, change our lives and it reminds us that we are dust and we are going to return to dust.”
Some churches in San Diego County announced they will forgo the ashes entirely while others sent ashes in envelopes to their faithful for use during online services.
But at St. Joseph Cathedral, Father Navarra said he’s grateful to have indoor services again and is optimistic for the future.
“I had the first vaccine, most priests have had two vaccines. A lot of our people here are seniors, they already had their vaccines — including my deacons. They've had their vaccines. So I’m hoping by Easter that we will have a lot more people to come.”
Under current rules, even with vaccinations, indoor church services remain limited to 25% of a building's capacity.
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