03/01/2006, 00.00
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For the Pope Lent is a time of conversion and solidarity

Let these be days of reflection and intense prayer during which we let the Word of God guide us, a time when we can truly share gifts received with one's brothers and pay attention to the needs of the poor and those left out.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – "For remember that you are dust and to dust you will return," (cf Jn, 3: 19) and "turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel," (Mk, 1: 15), are two passages in the Scriptures that are part of the liturgy of Ash Wednesday that sum up the meaning of Lent, a particularly important time to "experience with Jesus the 40 days spent in the desert, praying and fasting."

Pope Benedict XVI, who will celebrate mass for Ash Wednesday in Rome's Santa Sabina Basilica this afternoon, spoke today to the 30,000 faithful who gathered in St Peter's Square for the general audience. In his speech he stressed the fundamental aspects of personal conversion—which comes from an awareness that the human condition is "marked by transience and limits"—and solidarity towards the poor.

Charity is born from a "conversion to love", "love that is able to take on the Lord's attitude of compassion and mercy," the Pope said in his Lent message for "Jesus, at the sight of the crowds, was moved with pity" (Mt, 9: 36).

From his message, Benedict XVI said again that in "the face of the terrible challenge of poverty afflicting so much of the world's population, indifference and self-centered isolation stand in stark contrast to the 'gaze' of Christ."

Let the days of Lent in other words "be days of reflection and intense prayer during which we let the Word of God guide us, something which the liturgy abundantly offers. What is more, Lent is a time of fasting, penitence and self-vigilance, a time when we are aware that the struggle with sin is never ending since temptation is an everyday reality and fragility and illusion touch everyone."

"Finally, giving alms makes Lent a time when we can truly share gifts received with one's brothers and pay attention to the needs of the poor and those left out."

"May Mary, Mother of the Redeemer, accompany us on the penitential path, She who knows how to listen and be a faithful follower of God. May the Holiest Virgin help us celebrate the great mystery of Christ's Easter pure and renewed in mind and spirit." (FP)

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