Pope will preside at Ash Wednesday Mass, procession; act will renew ancient tradition

.- The Vatican announced today that next week, Pope Benedict himself will mark the beginning of lent with an Ash Wednesday Mass at Rome’s Basilica of Santa Sabina, an act which will serve to renew an ancient Lenten tradition long held by the Diocese of Rome.

The late Pope John Paul II was forced to abandon the practice as his health deteriorated late in life.

Prior to Mass, the Holy Father will preside at brief prayer in the nearby Church of St. Anselm on Rome’s Aventine Hill.

Following that, he will lead a penitential procession to the Basilica, which will be attended by local cardinals, archbishops, bishops, as well the Benedictine monks of St. Anselm, the Dominican Fathers of Santa Sabina and an expected throng of lay faithful.

During the Mass at Santa Sabina, the Pope will also preside over the traditional rite of blessing and imposition of ashes.

The Vatican pointed out in a communiqué earlier today that the day’s activity will renew an ancient Lenten tradition, long held by the Church in Rome of celebrating Mass in designated "station" or churches, which change each year.

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