Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, sprinkles ashes on the head of Pope Francis during Ash Wednesday Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Feb. 17, 2021. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

SCRANTON – The Diocese of Scranton and all of its parishes invite the faithful to receive ashes on Ash Wednesday, March 2, 2022.

The reception of ashes is not mandatory nor required. The faithful should know it is their own internal disposition and intention to repent and start over that is the best fruit of Ash Wednesday and the ashes are an external sign of that internal reality.

Individuals may enter into Lent with a repentant heart even if they decide that receiving ashes is not the right thing for them this year because of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.

Due to continued concerns over health and safety, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera has directed that parishes do not impose ashes by thumb for the second year in a row. Ashes can still be distributed to the faithful through two options. All parishes have been given the ability to choose which method works best.

The first option involves tracing a Cross on an individual’s forehead using a cotton swab or Q-tip. With the cotton tip, the Cross would be traced on the recipient’s forehead. The minister must wear masks during the distribution of ashes and recipients are strongly encouraged to wear masks as well. A new Q-tip or cotton ball must be used for each person. After the use, each swab would be placed in a receptacle for burning.

The second option to distribute ashes is to sprinkle the ashes on the top of an individual’s head, with no contact, rather than imposing them on the forehead. In this method of distribution, the priest says the prayer for blessing the ashes. He sprinkles the ashes with holy water, without saying anything. Then he addresses all those present and only once says the formula as it appears in the Roman Missal, applying it to all in general: “Repent, and believe in the Gospel,” or “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

The priest would then cleanse his hands, put on a mask and distribute the ashes to those who come to him, or if appropriate, go to those who are standing in their places. The priest takes the ashes and sprinkles them on the head of each one without saying anything.

The blessing and distribution of ashes on Ash Wednesday normally takes place during the celebration of Mass, following the homily and general intercessions. When circumstances require, the blessing and distribution of ashes may take place apart from Mass, during a celebration of the Word of God. (Book of Blessings #1656)

To read all of the Diocese of Scranton’s COVID-19 safety guidelines for Lent 2022, visit the “Welcome Home” section tile on this website.

The Diocese of Scranton website ( also has a full Ash Wednesday schedule for parishes in all 11 counties in the coming days.