Pope leads Catholic Church into Lent
ROME – Pope Benedict led the world’s Catholics into the 40-day Lenten season on Wednesday, urging them to practice prayer, fasting, penitence and alms giving.
The Pope presided at an Ash Wednesday procession and mass at the Rome basilica of Santa Sabina on the ancient Aventine Hill, during which he placed ashes on the foreheads of members of the congregation in a ritual reminding Christians of mortality.
The Pope, who also received ashes at the ceremony, based his sermon at the mass on the need for individual prayer.
Speaking earlier on Wednesday to pilgrims and tourists at his weekly general audience at the Vatican, the Pope said Lent should be a season of renewal for the faithful.
“During Lent, in addition to prayer and fasting, the Church invites us to practice alms giving as an expression of our desire to imitate Christ’s own self-giving and his generous concern for others,” Benedict said at the audience.
Lent ends on Easter Sunday, which falls on March 23 this year.