ROME — Pope Benedict XVI is marking the start of the solemn Lenten season by sprinkling ashes on the bowed heads of faithful in a Roman Catholic tradition.
Ash Wednesday services for Roman Catholics worldwide usher in a period of penitence and reflection that leads up to Easter Sunday, this year being celebrated on April 4.
Benedict pinched a bit of ash from a silver-colored bowl held out to him by an aide, and then distributed the ashes to prelates, other clergy and lay people, including children, who approached him one by one in St. Sabina's Basilica on Rome's ancient Aventine Hill.
The Pope in his homily said that humanity needs to hope in a world that is more just, and described Lent as an opportunity for spiritual renewal of people.
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