The Apostolic Vicariate of Puerto Princesa (AVPP) said it is leaving to the discretion of heads of different parishes the manner of distributing ashes during the celebration of Ash Wednesday on February 17.

Ash Wednesday marks the start of the Lenten season of the Roman Catholic church.

AVPP spokesperson Fr. Eugene Elivera said Bishop Socrates Mesiona is leaving the decision to parish priests in different churches of the vicariate as they know what is best for the locals under their scope.

“Kay bishop, binibigay niya sa discretion ng mga pari kung anong best kasi iba-iba rin ang case sa mga munisipyo, iba rin case sa mga baryo, kung what is best,” he said.

Traditionally, priests and lay ministers apply ashes made from fronds used at last year’s Palm Sunday on the forehead of parishoners. Last year, however, a lockdown was implemented in the country because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In compliance with health and safety protocols, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippjnes (CBCP) issued a directive to do away from tradition of applying ashes on the forehead.

CBCP also said on January 14 that this year, ashes can be taken from dried branches and leaves of plants or trees as many parishes find it difficult to secure old palm branches blessed in the celebration of Palm Sunday in 2020.

“Our celebration last year was in the absence of our people because of the strict lockdown and only few palm branches were blessed on the occasion.”

The mass celebrations on Ash Wednesday will also be available via live streaming through the official Facebook page of AVPP, Elivera added.