Filipino Catholics may once again receive ash crosses on their forehead on Ash Wednesday, March 2, after two years of breaking tradition due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines said on Saturday.
The CBCP Episcopal Commission on Liturgy issued guidelines on the celebration of Ash Wednesday, the Holy Week, and the Paschal Triduum this year, taking into consideration the COVID-19 protocols set by the government.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the holy season of Lent, a 40-day period of fasting, prayer, repentance and alms giving.
For Ash Wednesday in 2020 and 2021, ash from burned palm branches blessed during the previous year's Palm Sunday were only sprinkled on a person's crown to avoid physical contact.
"We will revert to the imposition of ashes on the forehead of the faithful," the CBCP said, adding that sprinkling of ashes will remain an option.
Parishes that will have difficulty in securing old palm branches blessed during last year's Palm Sunday may burn dried leaves of plants or trees instead.
On Palm Sunday, April 10, the blessing of the palm branches of those joining the Mass through online streaming is given through the Scriptural reading and prayer of blessing. "There is no need for holy water for the blessing of their palm branches," the CBCP said.
During the Holy Week, if religious processions will be allowed, the CBCP recommended limiting the procession route to roads or streets that will allow for social distancing.
Using "carosas" or "andas" during these processions is not recommended as this will not ensure social distancing of those who will carry these platforms, the CBCP said. Instead, devotees are encouraged to use a motor vehicle where carrying of religious images is not required.
Popular devotions like "Pabasa" may also be organized as long as health protocols are complied with, the CBCP added.
This year's Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Black Saturday will fall on April 14, 15, and 16, with Easter Sunday on April 17.