Ash Wednesday: Changes made for some amid pandemic

Ash Wednesday usually requires a lot of personal contact for believers who get ash in the form of a cross rubbed on their foreheads, but that all changes during the coronavirus pandemic.

Video Transcript

- Big day on the Christian calendar. Ash Wednesday marks the start of Lent. Churchgoers normally receive ashes in the shape of a cross on their foreheads. But with a pandemic going on, congregations are coming up with different ways to observe the holiday safely. Eyewitness News reporter Candiace McCowan live outside St. Patrick's Cathedral with the story. Candice.

CANDACE MCCOWAN: Well, Shirley, many different ways to handle this today. Here at St. Patrick's Cathedral, it'll be like business as usual. They'll be putting those ashes on people's foreheads, but sanitizing in between each person as they walk up.

Now earlier this morning, we saw the Pope distributing ashes with no mask on, but at arm's length by sprinkling the ashes on the heads of parishioners. It's the same technique that he's used in the past, and that the Brooklyn diocese says that they will use this Ash Wednesday amid a pandemic.

And in some cases, there will be curbside pickup of ashes where people can go grab their ashes, take them home, and then put them on during a Zoom service later. Clergy reminding many about the purpose of those ashes.

CHRISTOPHER HEANUE: We're not putting on these ashes as a sign of look at me and how holy I am. We're doing it because it's an interior relationship with our God.

CANDACE MCCOWAN: Others like the Episcopal Diocese of New York they've decided to not impose ashes at all this Ash Wednesday, saying that's too much physical contact.