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Even with expanded capacity, Ash Wednesday will look different in COVID era

Lent starts today: Here's what the forehead mark symbolizes
Posted at 6:23 PM, Feb 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-17 09:26:58-05

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — In a world that feels anything but typical, there lies a deepening appreciation for the ritual.

"I believe just as people have been renewed by receiving that grace, that imposition in past years, even more so this year because of the suffering we have witnessed," said Monsignor Gregory Gordon of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Las Vegas.

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That suffering caused by a deadly and contagious virus has spawned a change in the way ashes are imposed.

"For the first time, the pastors are being invited to sprinkle ashes on the heads of those penitents coming forward in procession to receive this blessing," said Gordon.

But Gordon said while this may feel like a big change for American Catholics, the sprinkling of ashes is actually a tradition in other countries and in Vatican City.

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Las Vegas faithful will see other changes too. The recently expanded capacity limits will allow for more people to attend mass in person.

Gordon said most churches ask that people make a reservation for mass online and expect to be temperature checked and have their hands sanitized before entering.

Face coverings are required and social distancing is observed inside with every other pew blocked off and six feet between families.

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Gordon said he's proud of how the church has adapted to keep everyone safe.

"I am very grateful to say I think in the churches we've been prayerful, but we've also been careful and cautious," said Gordon.