Roman Catholics across the country will see a slight change in their Ash Wednesday tradition this year.
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, Wednesday, February 17 and Catholic churches across Trinidad and Tobago will host their usual services on that date, but in keeping with COVID-19 restrictions there are a few changes.
In an attempt to avoid overcrowding, Archbishop Jason Gordon has granted permission to impose ashes at services on the follow dates: Ash Wednesday, Wednesday, February 17, Thursday, February 18 and Friday, February 19.
The two additional dates may be used if considered necessary by the Parish Priest.
Traditionally, the ashes for the Ash Wednesday service are created by burning the palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday service.
However, in 2020, Palm Sunday Masses were suspended because churches were closed due to the pandemic. In advance of Ash Wednesday 2021, each parish must prepare ashes by burning (dried) palm branches or leaves obtained by other means.
Archbishop Gordon also advised that to prevent coronavirus disease transmission, the distribution of ashes must occur in a manner that avoids direct skin-to-skin contact.
He offered two options:
1. The priest/minister sprinkles the blessed ashes on the top of the head of the penitent
2: The priest/minister anoints the forehead of the penitent in the sign of the cross with a Q-tip dipped in the blessed ashes.
At this time, coordinated, Mass gatherings for the procession of worshippers is not permitted.
Stations of the Cross may be held within the Church but those in attendance must remain in their pews and the capacity guidelines now used for Mass must be employed.
The Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) Team will soon be issuing other Guidelines for the Lenten Season, especially with respect to Holy Week.