Santorum gets ashes but Gingrich skips Ash Wednesday Mass

The two remaining Catholics in the GOP field split Wednesday on attending Ash Wednesday services, with Newt Gingrich saying that he would be unable to attend Mass and Rick Santorum campaiging in Tuscon, Ariz., while displaying an ash cross.

Catholics traditionally attend Mass and receive the ashes as a sign of penitence and morality, but the ceremony is not categorized as a Holy Day of Obligation by the Catholic Church, so attendance is optional. Gingrich noted as much during a discussion with reporters Wednesday morning.

“It’s not a Holy Day of Obligation,” Gingrich told CNN and NBC.

Roman Catholics are traditionally obligated to attend church on eight Days of Obligation, in addition to regular Sunday service. Examples include Christmas, New Year’s Day, the Ascension of the Lord, All Saints’ and the Solemnity of Mary.

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