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Pope says Lent provides opportunity for self-examination

Pope John Paul II has said the 40 days of Lent, which commence today, provide a chance for for Christians to examine their lives and their relationships truthfully and sincerely.

"Lent is a privileged time to intensify our commitment to conversion to Christ," he said during his midday Angelus address on Sunday. "In this way, the Lenten journey will become a favourable occasion to examine oneself with sincerity and truth and to put back into order one's life and relationships with others and with God."

The Pope will depart from recent tradition and remain within the Vatican for the Celebration of the Word and distribution of ashes in St. Peter's.

In previous years, the Pope presided at this celebration in the Basilica of St Sabina, on the Aventine Hill in Rome. This year he will do so in the Vatican, a decision designed to spare him additional fatigue.

The custom of beginning Lent in Rome in the paleo-Christian Basilica of St Sabina, introduced by St. Gregory the Great in the sixth century, was re-established by John XXIII in 1960. Clement XIII had last celebrated it in 1769.

The celebration this morning (Rome time) will include the rite of introduction, the Liturgy of the Word and the Pope's homily, the blessing and imposition of ashes, the Prayer of the Faithful and the Lord's Prayer, and the concluding rite.

Meanwhile Australian churches are expecting large numbers at their Ash Wednesday masses, particularly city churches at lunchtime.

Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide will celebrate the 12.10 pm Mass at the city's St Francis Xavier's Cathedral, during which Ash Wednesday ashes will be blessed and marked on the foreheads of people in the form of a cross.

Archbishop Wilson will tell the congregation - many of them city workers who use their lunchtime as an opportunity to go to Mass on Ash Wednesday - that Lent is a time for solidarity.

"It's a time of solidarity with God through prayer and fasting as well as solidarity with our neighbour through our commitment to charitable works and to Project Compassion," he said.

Pope says Lent provides Christians chance for self-examination (Catholic News Service 23/2/04)
Pope to stay at Vatican on Ash Wednesday (CathNews 23/2/04)
Hundreds gather at Cathedral for Ash Wednesday (Catholic Communications Adelaide 24/2/04)

Ash Wednesday (BBC Religion & Ethics)
Pope Links U.N. Reform to Fight Against Terrorism (Zenit 23/2/04)
John Paul II Calls for Adequate Separation of Church and State (Zenit 23/2/04)
Pope Backs a Worldwide Truce for the Olympics (Zenit 23/2/04)
Music to Papal Ears (Zenit 23/2/04)
Pope says world needs new tools to monitor, counteract terrorism (Catholic News Service 23/2/04)
Pope plans full Holy Week schedule (Catholic World News 24/2/04)

25 Feb 2004