Ash Wednesday is the doorway into Lent, the season of renewal, but don’t go to church on that day, Westminster Cardinal Vincent Nichols writes in a February 13/14 Pastoral Letter.
He protests that, “our churches are safe if the protective measures are fulfilled but we must all be very careful about travelling too far.”
Nichols asked his priests, not to make "extra provision" for Ash Wednesday. His focus is on the coronavirus, “We must be so careful and cooperative in the measures we must take, to protect ourselves and to protect others.”
Receiving ashes is for him [only] an “outward sign,” so he invites the faithful to concentrate “much more” on an “inner, spiritual movement of the heart” towards Christ.
Since for this no church is necessary, he suggests to gather on Ash Wednesday “for a while” at home, to make the sign of the cross on each other’s forehead, and to read a coronavirus prayer contained in the Pastoral Letter.
“This year, it may be best to do this, not by going to church,” Nichols insists.
Gloria.tv has information that many parish priests have refused to read the pastoral during Sunday mass.