03/05/2006, 00.00
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Pope: Lent with Jesus in the desert to fight the spirit of evil

Benedict XVI invited Christians to make use of this time to liberate themselves from the slavery of deceit, and to live in the freedom of truth. From this evening until Saturday next, he will participate in the spiritual exercises for the Roman Curia. He also set a date with European and African youth: Saturday 11 March.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The Lenten season, which started with Ash Wednesday, is "a good time for a thorough evaluation of one's life in reflection, prayer and penitence", the pope said today. In his reflection before the Angelus in St Peter's Square, Benedict XVI announced that from this evening, together with the Roman Curia, he will be participating in the spiritual exercises until Saturday, 11 March. The preacher will be Cardinal Marco Cé, Patriarch Emeritus of Venice, and the theme: "Walking with Jesus towards Easter led by the Evangelist Mark". Benedict XVI called on the faithful to accompany him through prayer and he assured all of "a reminder to the Lord, so that Lent may be, for all Christians, an opportunity for conversion and a more courageous drive towards holiness".

Turning to the gospel of the day, which is about Jesus' 40 days in the desert, "where he overcame the temptations of Satan" (cfr Mk 1:12-13), the pope exhorted Christians to follow "their Teacher and Lord… to face together with Him 'the struggle against the spirit of evil'." He said: "The desert is rather an eloquent metaphor of the human condition." The pope also recalled the experience of the people of Israel who, after liberation from Egypt, spent 40 years in the desert. "During that long journey, the Jews experienced all the forcefulness and insistence of the tempter, who urged them to lose faith in the Lord and to turn back; but, at the same time, thanks to the mediation of Moses, they learned to listen to the voice of God, who was calling them to become his holy people."

"In order to fully attain life in freedom," he added, "the test brought by freedom itself, that is, temptation, must be overcome. Only free from the slavery of deceit and sin, can the human being, thanks to the obedience of faith which opens him to the truth, discover the full sense of his existence and reach peace, love and joy."

As he was delivering various greetings, Benedict invited the youth to take part in a prayer meeting on the afternoon of Saturday 11 March: "On Saturday 11 March, at 5pm, in Paul VI Hall, a Marian vigil will be held by the university youth of Rome. Thanks to radio-television links, many students from other European as well as African countries will also take part. It will be a fitting occasion to pray to the Blessed Virgin so that the Gospel may open new channels of cooperation between the peoples of Europe and Africa. Dear young people, I expect you in great numbers!"

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