Season Is Lived in Prayer, Pope Says

Joins Ash Wednesday Celebration

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 28, 2001 ( John Paul II made an Ash Wednesday appeal to Christian communities to become schools of prayer and pacification.

He joined in a prayer service that began at 5 p.m. in St. Anselm´s Church on the Aventine Hill in Rome. The Pope spent time in recollection and prayer, and then joined a procession of Benedictine monks, Dominican friars and numerous pilgrims who went to St. Sabina Church for Mass.

Cardinal Jozef Tomko, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, presided over the rite, but the Pontiff delivered the homily.

«The road to which Lent calls us is lived, first of all, in prayer,» the Holy Father said. «During these weeks, Christian communities must become authentic schools of prayer.» That calls for the sacrament of reconciliation is necessary, he said, where «each one can rediscover Christ,» in whom «God shows us his compassionate heart and reconciles us totally with himself.»

At the same time, the Holy Father recognized that «in today´s world the need for pacification and forgiveness» increases. The Church, the Pope explained, has the duty to proclaim «forgiveness and love of enemies.» Thus, «she is conscious of introducing in humanity´s spiritual patrimony a new way of relating to others.»

«This is the gift she also offers to the men of our time,» the Holy Father concluded. At the end of the homily, he distributed ashes to those on hand.

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