Pope to Stay at Vatican on Ash Wednesday

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 17, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II will preside at the celebration of the Word and the blessing and imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday in St. Peter's Basilica.

The Pope will preside at the 10:30 a.m. ceremony Feb. 25, the start of Lent and a day of fast and abstinence, according to a note released today by the Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff.

The celebration will include the rite of introduction, the Liturgy of the Word and the Pope's homily, the blessing and imposition of ashes, the Prayer of the Faithful and the Lord's Prayer, and the concluding rite.

In previous years, the Pope presided at this celebration in the Basilica of St. Sabina, on the Aventine Hill in Rome. This year he will do so in the Vatican, a decision designed to spare him additional fatigue, ZENIT learned from Vatican sources.

The custom of beginning Lent in Rome in the paleo-Christian Basilica of St. Sabina, introduced by St. Gregory the Great in the sixth century, was re-established by John XXIII in 1960. Clement XIII had last celebrated it in 1769.