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Pope says Lenten penance must include 'interior attitude'

Presiding over Ash Wednesday services in St Peter's Basilica, Pope John Paul II reminded the faithful that external gestures of penance are worthwhile only if they "express an interior attitude".

The Holy Father joined with all the cardinals of the Roman Curia, the Sistine Chapel choir, and a congregation of about 6000 in a solemn ceremony inaugurating the penitential season of Lent.

In his homily, he remarked that the imposition of ashes is "particularly important to the Christian tradition." This external gesture, he explained, signifies "the conscience of sinful man, in the face of God's majesty and holiness."

The Pope encouraged the faithful to follow traditional Lenten practices, including "abstinence, fasting, mortification and giving up legitimate goods."

He noted that these observances should be coupled with "incessant prayer" and acts of charity. Echoing the theme of his Lenten message for 2004, the Pope particularly encouraged acts of charity toward, and care for, children in need.

Pope stresses "interior attitude" as Lent begins (Catholic World News 25/2/04)

Pope opens Lenten season with Ash Wednesday call for service and sacrifice (Associated Press/KPLC 25/2/04)
Full Agenda Awaits John Paul II Over Next 2 Months (Zenit 24/2/04)
Church in Mexico Deserves More Leeway, Says John Paul II (Zenit 24/2/04)
Pope Has Hopes to Attend Eucharistic Congress in Guadalajara (Zenit 24/2/04)
Pope dedicates Ash Wednesday to children(Philippine Headline News Online 24/2/04)
Pope's message for Lent 2004 (Independent Catholic News 25/2/04)
Pope gets Lent underway from St. Peter's Basilica ( 25/2/04)

26 Feb 2004