Pope Francis to Celebrate Ash Wednesday at Vatican Instead of Making Traditional Walk to Rome’s Aventine Hill

Pope Francis arrives in procession to celebrate Ash Wednesday Mass at the Basilica of Santa Sabina in Rome in this Feb. 26, 2020, file photo. Because of ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, the pope will celebrate Ash Wednesday Mass at the Vatican rather than the traditional location on the Aventine Hill. (Credit: Paul Haring/CNS.)

Pope Francis will celebrate Ash Wednesday Mass Feb. 17 in St. Peter’s Basilica rather than making the traditional walk from the Church of St. Anselm to the Basilica of Santa Sabina on Rome’s Aventine Hill, the Vatican said.

Because of ongoing concerns about drawing a crowd and the potential that could have for spreading the coronavirus, the Mass and distribution of ashes will take place with a congregation of about 100 people at the Altar of the Chair in the basilica as has been the practice for the past several months, the Vatican press office said Feb. 5.

Pope Francis will not hold his weekly general audience that day.

The “pilgrimage” from the “station church” of St. Anselm to the “station church” Santa Sabina is an ancient Rome tradition revived in the early 1960s by St. John XXIII.

A church was designated as a “station church” because of its prominence in early Christianity or because it was constructed on the burial site of a saint or martyr of the early church. In long-ago Lents, popes would gather with the faithful of Rome at a different church each day and then walk together to another church for Mass, making a pilgrimage from one stop or station to another until Easter.

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SOURCE: Crux, Cindy Wooden