Monday evening, officials with the Catholic Diocese of El Paso announced that parishes will remain in Phase 3 of the Diocesan Protocols for Church Gatherings in a time of pandemic during the lenten season, to include Ash Wednesday.
“The Diocese of El Paso will strictly adhere to the instructions provided by the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline for the Sacraments to provide a safe environment for all participants,” officials said.
According to the Diocese, Phase 3 provides guidelines for Churches where Disinfection and Social Distancing norms are strictly followed allowing for the resumption of gatherings at 25% capacity for Mass for Weekdays and Weekend Services, baptisms, Eucharistic exposition for 1–2 hours, and prayer during the day.
As an addition, the practice of the distribution of ashes has changed in accordance with the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline for the Sacraments.
The Congregation published a written instructions on January 12, directing priests to say the formula for distributing the ashes once to everyone present, rather than to each person.
The priest “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 note said.
It continued: “The priest then cleanses his hands, puts on a face mask and distributes the ashes to those who come to him or, if appropriate, he goes 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.”
Diocesan officials urge those people with pre-existing conditions and the elderly to remain home and continue to worship with them online.
The obligation for Sunday Mass will continue to be lifted during this time of pandemic. We ask all parishioners to call their local parish for Mass Times and where they can find a stream of services during Ash Wednesday.