Pope to Stay at Vatican on Ash Wednesday

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 11, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II plans to preside at the celebration of the Word on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 25, in the Vatican, instead of in a basilica in the city of Rome.

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A notice of the Prefecture of the Papal Household, issued Saturday by the Vatican press office, states that the celebration will take place in Paul VI Hall, in lieu of the weekly general audience.

The statement adds that all the faithful who intended to attend the general audience and all others wishing to do so, may participate in the rite of blessing and imposition of ashes in the auditorium.

In previous years, the Pope presided at this celebration in the Basilica of St. Sabina, on the Aventine Hill. The decision is based on the desire to avoid further effort for the Pope, Vatican sources told ZENIT.

The custom to start Lent in that Roman basilica was introduced by Gregory the Great in the sixth century. The custom ended in 1769 but was re-established by John XXIII in 1960.

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