Ash Wednesday in COVID times

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Instead of ashes being placed on the forehead, they were sprinkled on the penitent’s head at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, Panaji

Churchgoers were seen wearing masks and maintaining social distance as they attended the Ash Wednesday service at various churches and shrines in the state. Observed across the world on February 17 this year, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of Lent.

Every year, on this day Catholics attend mass and have a cross of ash marked on their forehead to the words “For dust you are and to dust you shall return”. Due to safety concerns over COVID-19 this year, clergy smudging ashes directly onto foreheads was rare, instead some priests sprinkled the ashes atop

the penitents’ heads. The ashes symbolise

repentance and death for the believer, and how Christ died for them. Catholics mark the day by fasting, alms giving and prayer in order to seek God’s mercy. The ashes are collected from the palm fronds from the previous year’s Palm Sunday which are burnt. The ashes are blessed during the first mass of the day. Ash Wednesday occurs 46 days before Easter. This year Easter falls on April 4.