Pope says retreat can strengthen faith
As he prepared to begin his weeklong Lenten retreat, Pope Benedict XVI said Lent is a time to examine one's life in an atmosphere of prayer and repentance.
Citing the ancient Israelites who wandered in the desert and Jesus who retreated to the desert before beginning his public ministry, the pope said a period of withdrawal and face-to-face confrontation with temptation strengthens one's faith.
Meditating on biblical desert scenes, he said, "We understand that in order to fully realise our lives in freedom, the trial that freedom itself brings, that is, temptation, must be overcome."
"Only freed from the slavery of falsehood and sin thanks to obedience to the faith that opens him to the truth can the human person find the full meaning of his existence and obtain peace, love and joy," the pope said.
He asked Catholics to pray for him and top Vatican officials while they were on retreat, and he promised to keep everyone in his own prayers.
The retreat, which includes formal prayer, spiritual lectures and eucharistic adoration, includes morning and late-afternoon sessions.
Cardinal Marco Ce of Venice, Italy, who was asked by the pope to preach at the retreat said that the central message of his talks, "is the message of Easter: God loves our world and wants to save it through the death and resurrection of Jesus."
"I want to give everyone a message of hope," the cardinal said.
Cardinal Ce said the Lenten practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving "are three works capable of forming a lifestyle that can change the world."
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7 Mar 2006