Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde, leader of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, and members of St. Paul’s Parish in Washington, D.C., imposed ashes on commuters and other passers-by on Ash Wednesday (March 5) near the Foggy Bottom Metro station in the nation’s capital. Wednesday marked the beginning of Lent, the period of penance and fasting preceding Easter.

Religion News Service photos by Adelle M. Banks

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Categories: Beliefs


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Adelle M. Banks

Adelle M. Banks, production editor and a national reporter, joined RNS in 1995. An award-winning journalist, she previously was the religion reporter at the Orlando Sentinel and a reporter at The Providence Journal and newspapers in the upstate New York communities of Syracuse and Binghamton.


  1. Thank you for this report. Makes me happy to see people reaching each other and smiling – even though it is based on something I do not believe in anymore.

    Ash Wednesday was one of my favorite Christian holidays –
    To ME, the mark on the forehead meant “I love people and I love life even though it is temporary – and I’m aware that it we are all beautiful.”

    What could elicit more sweet empathy for each other as we acknowledge our short time on earth? Of course Atheists can participate, too.

    The Book of Ecclesiastes, where we get the idea of ‘ashes to ashes’, very probably was written by an Atheist and the concept of wearing ashes on the forehead is beautifully honest to me.

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with Atheists celebrating an Ash Wednesday of their own. We should.

    • Of course, what I meant to say….
      Atheists should celebrate a ‘Godless’ Ash Wednesday.
      It is easily the most Atheistic Christian holiday anyway.

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