Liturgy dicastery says that the ashes should be sprinkled on the heads of the faithful, and in silence.
For Ash Wednesday on February 17, priests or designated ministers should sprinkle the ashes on the heads of the faithful, so that there is no contact from tracing the cross in ash on the forehead. As well, the optional phrases — such as “remember you are dust and to dust you shall return” — will not be pronounced to each member of the faithful, but said once by the celebrant, for the whole congregation.
This directive was published January 12 by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in a note signed by Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Dicastery.
Some priests and ministers already use a sprinkling method for administering the ashes. Many, though, dip their thumb in the fine ash and then trace a cross with the ash on the foreheads of the faithful as they come forward one by one.
The Vatican note specifies:
Having pronounced the prayer of blessing of the ashes and after having sprinkled them with holy water, the priest, addressing himself to the faithful, will pronounce the formula from the Roman Missal: “Repent and believe in the Gospel” or “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
After washing his hands and placing his mask, the minister can then administer the ashes upon those who approach, or if it seems more advisable, the faithful can stay in their places and the minister can approach them. But the ashes should be distributed in such a way that the priest or minister is not touching the forehead of each of the faithful.