MANILA, Philippines — An archdiocese in the Philippines will allow churchgoers to distribute ashes among family members at home to mark the beginning of Lent Feb. 17. reported the Cebu Archdiocese in the central Philippines released a prayer guide Feb. 10 for the celebration of Ash Wednesday at home for those unable to go to church due to COVID-19 restrictions. Children and elderly people are disqualified by government protocols to attend large gatherings such as those in churches.

“Those who cannot come to church on this day can join the celebration of the Mass of Ash Wednesday on a live TV broadcast or livestreaming,” the archdiocese said.

The head of the family would lead the entire family in prayer according to the guidelines. After the prayers, the family member should sprinkle ashes on the head of each person in the home to avoid contact with them. Families would conclude the celebration with a prayer and the sign of the cross. reported the diocese posted links to the prayer guide on social media.

Cebu Archdiocese also reminded Catholics that Ash Wednesday was a day of fasting and abstinence, like all Fridays during Lent.

Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma said Lenten season is the time for Catholics to deepen their relationship with Jesus.

“It is Jesus who calls us to be his followers so that people may know that we have a loving and caring God,” Palma said in a recent homily.

Local Catholics said the archdiocese was offering a practical solution to limitations being imposed by the pandemic, reported.

“This is a new way of marking the beginning of Lent. People usually flock to churches, but the pandemic has made Ash Wednesday different this year, so this is a good way to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said Frances Cespon of Cebu.

The Philippine bishops’ conference allowed another deviation from Ash Wednesday norms for those who do wish to go to church. It said people would be allowed to use any dried plant or tree leaves in place of old palm leaves to make ashes.

Normally, the ashes comes from old palm leaves used during Palm Sunday celebrations the previous year, but there is a shortage this year because of COVID-19 restrictions imposed last year.