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Wednesday, March 9, 2011


VATICAN CITY, 9 MAR 2011 (VIS) - "Today, with the austere symbol of the ashes, we enter the period of Lent, beginning a spiritual journey which prepares for a worthy celebration of the Paschal mysteries. The ashes ... are a sign reminding us of our status as created beings and inviting us to penance, to intensify our commitment to conversion so as to continue following the Lord", said the Pope in his general audience today, held in the Paul VI Hall in the presence of 7,000 faithful.

  "Lent is a journey, it means accompanying Jesus as He travels to Jerusalem, the place where the mystery of His Passion, Death and Resurrection is to be fulfilled. It reminds us that Christian life is a 'road' to be travelled, consisting not so much in a law to be observed as in the person of Christ Himself, Who must be encountered, welcomed and followed".

  "It is above all in the liturgy, in participation in the holy mysteries, that we are drawn into following this path with the Lord, ... reliving the events that have led us to salvation; but not as a simple commemoration, a recollection of things past", the Holy Father explained. "There is", he said, "a keyword to indicate this, which is often repeated in the liturgy: the word 'today', which must be understood not metaphorically but in its original concrete sense. Today God reveals His law and we have the opportunity to chose between good and evil, between life and death".

  On Sundays during Lent we experience "a baptismal itinerary" which helps to conform "our lives to the requirements and duties of that Sacrament, which lies at the foundation of our Christian life".

  "The first Sunday [of Lent], called the Sunday of temptation because it presents us with the temptation of Jesus in the desert, invites is to renew our definitive choice for God, and courageously to face the struggle that awaits us in remaining faithful to Him". The second Sunday is the Sunday of Abraham and the Transfiguration and, "like Abraham, father of believers, we too are invited to depart, to leave our own land, to abandon the certainties we have constructed and place our faith in God. We may glimpse our goal in the transfiguration of Christ, the beloved Son, in Whom we too become 'children of God'".

  On the third Sunday we encounter the Samaritan woman. "Like Israel in the Exodus, in Baptism we too received the water that saves. Jesus, as He tells the Samaritan woman, has the water of life which satisfies every thirst; this water is His Spirit. ... The fourth Sunday leads us to reflect on the experience of the man 'blind from birth'. In Baptism we are freed from the shades of evil and receive the light of Christ in order to live as children of light. ... Finally, the fifth Sunday presents us with the raising of Lazarus. In Baptism we pass from death to life and become capable of pleasing God, of causing the old man to die so as to live in the spirit of the Risen One".

  In Church tradition the period of Lent is characterised by practices such as fasting, almsgiving and prayer, said Pope Benedict, explaining how fasting "means abstaining from food, but it also includes other forms of privation for a more abstemious life". It "is closely linked to almsgiving ... which under the one name of 'mercy' embraces many good works". Moreover, during this period the Church "invites us to a more trusting and intense prayer, and to prolonged meditation on the Word of God".

  "On this Lenten journey", the Pope concluded, "let us be attentive to welcoming Christ's invitation to follow Him more decisively and coherently, renewing the grace and commitments of our Baptism, so as to abandon the old man who is in us and clothe ourselves in Christ, thus reaching Easter renewed and being able to say with St. Paul 'it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me'".
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VATICAN CITY, 9 MAR 2011 (VIS) - The Holy Father sent a Message to Archbishop Geraldo Lyrio Rocha of Mariana, president of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil, for the Fraternity Campaign traditionally promoted by the Brazilian Church during Lent.

  The theme of the 2011 campaign is: "Fraternity and life on the planet", and its motto is: "the creation groans with labour pains. This, the Pope writes, "is an echo of the words used by St. Paul in his Letter to the Romans. One of the reasons for these groans is the damage caused to creation by human selfishness", he says.

  Benedict XVI affirms that "the first step towards a correct relationship with the world around us is the recognition by humans of their status as created beings. Man is not God; he is His image. For this reason he must seek to be more sensitive to the presence of God in his surroundings. In all creatures, and especially in human beings, there is an epiphany, or manifestation, of God".

  "The human being will be capable of respecting other creatures only if he keeps the full meaning of life in his own heart. Otherwise he will come to despise himself and his surroundings, and to disrespect the environment, the creation, in which he lives. For this reason, the first ecology to be defended is 'human ecology'. This is to say that, without a clear defence of human life from conception until natural death; without a defence of the family founded on marriage between a man and a woman; without an authentic defence of those excluded and marginalised by society, not overlooking, in this context, those who have lost everything in natural calamities, we will never be able to speak of authentic protection of the environment".
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