Lent for conversion not self-fulfilment, Benedict says
In an Ash Wednesday homily to mark the beginning of Lent, Pope Benedict described it as an invitation to inner change and said fasting other Lenten practices are spiritual "weapons" in the fight against evil, wicked passions and vices.
AsiaNews reports that in his homily at Rome's Santa Sabina Basilica - first traditional "Lent Station" in which the bishop of Rome also participates - Pope Benedict described Lent as "a journey towards true conversion so as to victoriously confront with the weapons of penance the fight against the spirit of evil".
The Pope said that "a heartfelt conversion to God is the fundamental trait aspect of the time of Lent".
He says that the ritual of imposing the ashes has a double meaning.
"The first refers to an inner change, to conversion and penance," he said, "whilst the second refers to the precariousness of human existence easily seen in the two expressions that accompany the gesture."
Now "we have 40 days to deepen this extraordinary ascetic and spiritual experience", the Pope added, with Jesus himself telling us what are "the useful instruments to achieve a true inner and communal renewal: charity (alms), prayer and penance (fasting)."
Denying that fasting is not motivated physical or aesthetic reasons but stems from "man's need to purify himself from within and detoxify himself from sin and evil."
"It teaches him to accept the beneficial renunciatory practices that free the believer from the slavery of his own self," he added.
"It makes him listen more attentively to God and more available to Him and to serve his brothers. For this reason fasting and other Lenten practices are seen in the Christian tradition as spiritual 'weapons' in the fight against evil, wicked passions and vices," the Pope concluded.
Lent also time of solidarity with poor
In another Lenten message addressed to the Brazilian bishops, Pope Benedict said that in focusing the 2007=7 Lenten campaign on the poor in Brazil's Amazon region, the country's Catholics are called to provide material assistance, spiritual aid and support for efforts to protect the environment, Catholic News Service reports.
The Pope's message to Brazilian Catholics, encouraging their participation in the church's annual Lenten solidarity campaign, was released on 21 February.
The Brazilian bishops chose to focus the 2007 campaign on the needs of the poor in the Amazon region.
Pope Benedict said defending the life and livelihood of the region's people includes "the defence of the environment, because this vast territory constitutes a common patrimony that - because of its human, sociopolitical, economic and ecological reality - requires special attention on the part of the church and Brazilian society."
While material assistance to the poor is a special focus of the Lenten campaign, the Pope also called for new efforts and energies aimed at proclaiming the Gospel in the Amazon region and helping Catholics there grow in their faith.
Meanwhile, dioceses across Australia are also launching their Lenten appeals which focus on the 1967 encyclical Populorum Progressio (On the Development of Peoples) and the UN's Millennium Development Goals.
"With the theme for Project Compassion 2007 being 'Fair Play Today', all Australians are being invited to work together, be active and promote peace and justice around the world," Maitland-Newcastle Deacon Taylor said.
"Money raised from Project Compassion will assist Caritas Australia to work in partnership with communities who are improving their own lives through projects which focus on education, health, water and agriculture."
Sydney's Parramatta diocese also launched their appeal yesterday at Loyola College, Mt Druitt, attended by Bishop Kevin Manning, Parramatta Caritas director Sr Libby Rogerson and state and local government representatives.
Ash Wednesday: charity, prayer and penance as 'weapons' against evil, says Pope (AsiaNews, 21/2/077)
Pope says Brazilian Catholics called to support Amazon's poor (Catholic News Service, 21/2/07)
Catholics give a toss (Parramatta Catholic, February 2007)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Catholic Diocese of Parramatta
Discriminating in favour of the poor on Ash Wednesday (Jack de Groot, Online Opinion, 21/2/07)
22 Feb 2007