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Ash Wednesday In The COVID Era

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Ash Wednesday, as with many events during the coronavirus pandemic, may be a little different this year.

Mary Ross Agosta, director of communications for the Archdiocese of Miami told CBS4 News on Wednesday, all CDC guidelines will remain in place and masks must be worn while ashes are given.

However, no other safety protocols are in place, as suggested last month by the Vatican.

Those Vatican issued guidelines in the COVID era included having priests sprinkle ashes on the head rather than rub them on the forehead to limit the possible spread if one hand touched many foreheads.

They also said priests should wear masks and recite the traditional "Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return" once before for everyone and not to each person as they received ashes.

However, the Pope himself did not totally apply the new rules when he led the world's 1.3 billion Roman Catholics into the season of Lent Wednesday morning.

Pope Francis Holds The Ash Wednesday Mass At St. Peter's Basilica
VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - FEBRUARY 17: Pope Francis holds the Ash Wednesday Mass at St. Peter's Basilica on February 17, 2021 in Vatican City, Vatican. Ash Wednesday opens the liturgical 40-day period of Lent, a time of prayer, fasting, penitence and alms giving leading up to Easter. (Photo by Vatican Pool/Vatican Pool via Getty Images)

He generously dumped ashes on the crown of the heads of some cardinals and patted them down.

Sprinkling of ashes has been customary in parts of Europe and Latin America while rubbing on the forehead is predominant in the United States.

Francis, who normally marks the start of Lent with an outdoor procession between two ancient churches in Rome, instead said a Mass for about 120 people in St. Peter's Basilica.

In his sermon, the pope said Lent should be a chance to leave behind "the false security of money and conveniences" and return to God.

"We should no longer live our lives chasing dust, chasing things that are here today and gone tomorrow," he said.

During Lent, which ends on Easter, Christians are called on to fast, practice more good deeds, give alms, be close to the needy and suffering, and give up something, such as sweets.

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