Vatican City, Feb 26, 2009 / 09:49 am America/Denver (CNA).
Pope Benedict began Lent yesterday by presiding over Mass at the
Benedict XVI began yesterday’s Lenten observance with a penitential procession from the
The Ash Wednesday ceremony included the Pope receiving ashes from Cardinal Jozef Tomko, titular of Santa Sabina, after which the Pope imposed ashes upon cardinals, bishops and a number of faithful.
The tradition of Catholics wearing ashes on their foreheads on the first day of Lent comes from the Jewish practice of placing dirt or ashes on their foreheads as a sign of repentance. Likewise, Catholics today begin Lent—a 40 day period of fasting and penance—using the same outward expression of their sorrow and intention to seek deeper conversion.
In his homily the Pope highlighted that "the call to conversion emerges as the dominant theme" in the Ash Wednesday liturgy.