ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — It’s Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent season and a time of preparation for the holiest day of the Church calendar, Easter Sunday.

Inside churches, there are changes taking place this year due to COVID-19.

Normally, parishioners will have ashes placed on their forehead in the shape of a cross, but this year, the ashes will be sprinkled over their heads.

The traditional formula for placing the ashes on the forehead is, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Instead of saying it to everyone as they receive their ashes, the priest will tell this to the entire congregation at once.

The Diocese of St. Petersburg is welcoming parishioners on Ash Wednesday.

Masks are required and people will be spread out to maintain social distancing. The minister will take a pinch of ashes and sprinkle them over each person’s head.

Parishes will also have the option to distribute ashes via a swab or cotton ball, as long as masks are worn by ministers and the cotton balls or swabs are replaced after application. Ministers may choose to apply ashes with the thumb as long as they and the recipients wear masks during the distribution and ministers sanitize their thumbs before and after the distribution.

“Throughout Europe and other parts of the world they’re used to ashes sprinkled on heads, so we’re going to do that, Father Ralph D’Elia said. “It’s a safer way to do it, it’s a more traditional way of doing things.”

“We’re doing the best we can to ensure a safe environment, to ensure people’s health is taken into consideration,” D’Elia said. “That’s why we have distancing and masks and that’s why the Vatican recommends we distribute ashes this way.”

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