VATICAN CITY, MARCH 5, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II made an Ash Wednesday plea for prayer and fasting for peace and he proposed a “common effort to spare humanity another dramatic conflict.”
Meeting with about 6,500 pilgrims in Paul VI Hall, the Pope made his appeal on the worldwide day of prayer and fasting for peace that he convoked.
“While we enter in the time of Lent, we cannot but be conscious of the present international context, in which threatening tensions of war are agitated,” the Holy Father said.
“It is necessary that everyone consciously assume responsibility and engage in a common effort to spare humanity another dramatic conflict,” he added.
For this reason, the Pope invited believers to “ask God for conversion of heart, in which every form of evil and every thrust toward sin is rooted.”
This is precisely the invitation that Catholics worldwide heard on the day they went to churches to receive the imposition of ashes.
With the gesture of receiving ashes, “we acknowledge ourselves sinners, invoke the forgiveness of God, manifesting a sincere desire for conversion,” the Pope said. He himself later received ashes in Rome’s Basilica of St. Sabina.
The Holy Father said that in seeking interior conversion, fasting “has great value,” as “it is a need of the spirit to relate better to God.”
Fasting reflects “a sincere desire for interior purification, willingness to obey the divine will, and thoughtful solidarity toward brothers, particularly the poorest,” he added.
“There is, then, a close link between fasting and prayer. To pray is to listen to God and fasting favors this openness of heart,” John Paul II stressed.
“From the family to the international realm, may each one feel and make himself co-responsible for the construction of peace. And the God of peace, who knows the intentions of the heart and calls his children peacemakers, will not be lacking in his recompense,” the Pope concluded.