VATICAN CITY, MARCH 2, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address John Paul II gave today before reciting the midday Angelus with the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
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1. Next Wednesday — Ash Wednesday — we will begin Lent, a time characterized by a more acute awareness of the need for conversion and renewal, during which the faithful are invited to look with greater intensity at Christ, who prepares himself to fulfill the supreme sacrifice of the cross.
This year we will undertake the penitential journey toward Easter with a greater commitment to prayer and fasting for peace, challenged by the growing threat of war. I already announced this initiative last Sunday, whose purpose is to gather the faithful in fervent prayer to Christ, Prince of Peace. Peace, in fact, is a gift of God to be invoked with humble and insistent trust.
Without surrendering before difficulties, it is also necessary to seek and go down every possible avenue to avoid war, which always brings mourning and grave consequences for all.
2. The liturgy of Ash Wednesday invites us to add fasting to prayer, a penitential practice that calls for a more profound spiritual effort of conversion, namely, of the heart, with the firm decision to detach oneself from evil and sin, to be better disposed to fulfill the will of God. With physical fasting, and even more so with interior fasting, the Christian prepares himself to follow Christ and to be his faithful witness in every circumstance. Fasting, moreover, helps us to understand better the difficulties and sufferings of so many of our brothers oppressed by hunger, poverty and war. In addition, it stimulates us to a concrete movement of solidarity and sharing with those who are in need.
3. Let us dispose ourselves, dear Brothers and Sisters, to participate intensely in the Day of Prayer and Fasting for Peace, which we will observe next Wednesday.
We will pray for peace in the world, in particular for Iraq and the Holy Land, especially through the recitation of the rosary, which will involve shrines and parishes, communities and families. This collective prayer will rise from very part of the earth through the intercession of Mary, Mother of Mercy and Queen of Peace.
[Translation by ZENIT]