Ash Wednesday on Sunday! COVID continues to disrupt

Ash Wednesday on Sunday is a possibility.

Cardinal John Dew and Bishop Patrick Dunn identified the option in messages to pastoral leaders and people in their respective dioceses.

“If the Alert Level changes back to Level 1 on Wednesday night, we will look at having the belling and distribution of the ashes at Masses next Sunday”, Dew wrote.

Meanwhile, there will be no liturgical events nor parish gatherings in the Archdiocese, including weekday Masses, until the Alert Level changes back to Level 1.

Bishop of Auckland, Patrick Dunn is also looking to the possibility of transferring Ash Wednesday celebrations.

“I need to advise you that all weekday and Ash Wednesday Masses are to be postponed in the Auckland region until at least Thursday”, Dunn said on Facebook.

However, he also is not ruling out distributing the Ashes at Sunday Mass.

In contrast, the Coadjutor Archbishop of Wellington and Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Christchurch, Bishop Paul Martin SM is calling on Christchurch Catholics to sacrifice the liturgical celebration of Lent and asks the people of Christchurch to pray for those in Auckland, especially those affected by the latest COVID outbreak.

Given what Ash Wednesday means Martin said it is a source of sadness for people in the diocese to be unable to mark the beginning of Lent in this way.

Despite the short notice, he asks that no Ash Wednesday liturgies take place this year, however, notes that Catholics can still begin a time of fasting, prayer and almsgiving.

He has undertaken to distribute a prayer resource to parishes for use at home. The resource will be available today to anyone who calls into a parish to collect one.

Michael Dooley, Bishop of Dunedin, acknowledges the disruption to the start of Lent but calls on Catholics in the name of the common good to use the denial of Ash Wednesday to draw closer to God.

Dooley says that it is over to the parishes to determine whether there will likely be too many in attendance to meet social distancing requirements and the 100 person limit.

He told Dunedin Catholics that there will be no public gatherings of more than 100 people.

However, in an interesting twist, Dooley noted that although the 100 person restriction obviously means most schools will not be able to join with parishes for Ash Wednesday, they will be able to hold their own school liturgies.

Mindful of the 100 person limit and social distancing, Palmerston North parishes are doing their own thing.

Where possible, due to numbers, some will proceed, while others with larger congregations are either opting not to hold an Ash Wednesday ceremony or will work on a first come first served basis and lock the doors once the 100 person limit has been reached.

Officially the Diocese remains in wait for the announcement of a bishop, however as one parish priest told CathNews today, “We don’t need a bishop, we’re getting on nicely as we are.”

The Bishops met early Monday morning to discuss the latest Covid-19 alert level restrictions and given the limited time between the Prime Minister’s announcement and Ash Wednesday decided to respond best they could for each diocese.

Their first concern was the safety of people.

In making their decision the bishops noted the potentially volatile nature of the situation and agreed that if necessary, they will meet again later this week to consider what action is needed pending the further expected Government announcements.

The need to change Ash Wednesday arrangements came about due to the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern’s Sunday announcement that from midnight Sunday, Auckland would move to alert level 3 and the rest of New Zealand to alert level 2.

The increase in alert levels follows the diagnosis of a south Auckland, mother, father, and daughter with the UK variant of Covid-19.

The new alert level status remains at least until 11:59pm Wednesday 17 February.


  • New Zealand Catholic Bishops’ Conference
  • Supplied: Archdiocese of Wellington, Diocese of Auckland, Diocese of Christchurch, Diocese of Dunedin, Diocese of Palmerston North.
  • Image:
Additional reading

News category: New Zealand.

Tags: , , , , , , ,