During his general audience on Ash Wednesday, Pope Francis called Lent a moment of renewal which allows us to look at the needs of others with "new eyes," and to grow in love.

"Brothers and sisters: today, Ash Wednesday, begins the Lenten itinerary that leads us to the celebration of the Easter Triduum, a memorial of our salvation," the Pope said in March 5.

"Lent," he affirmed during his weekly address, "is a 'strong' time of conversion," and a time "to live our baptism with greater profundity."

Speaking to the thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square, the pontiff noted that the 40 days leading up to Easter is a "journey of penance, prayer and conversion" which prepares us "for the Church's annual celebration of the saving mysteries of Christ's passion, death and resurrection."

"In this time we are invited to be more aware of the wonders that the Lord does for our salvation," the Pope reflected, highlighting how the Church asks us "to ponder with joy and gratitude God's immense love" which is "revealed in the paschal mystery."

Emphasizing that the time of Lent is also a call "to live ever more fully the new life we have received in Baptism," the pontiff observed that doing this "will help us to not become accustomed to the difficult situations of misery, violence, poverty or indifference to God."

"These are not Christian behaviors" he explained, but rather "they are comfortable behaviors and they drug our heart."

Referring to Lent as a "journey of spiritual renewal in the footsteps of Christ," the Pope went on to say that this season helps us in a special way "to acknowledge and respond to the growing spiritual and material poverty in our midst."

"Specifically," he continued, "it means consciously resisting the pressure of a culture which thinks it can do without God, where parents no longer teach their children to pray, where violence, poverty and social decay are taken for granted."

"Lent is a time to recover the capacity to react before the reality of evil," the pontiff emphasized, adding that it is also a time "for personal renewal" and for "community" that "brings us closer to God."

Highlighting the importance of "confidently" adhering "to his Gospel in order to look at our brothers and the needy with new eyes," during this season, the Pope observed that it is "a suitable time to convert to be able to love our neighbor."

This love, he explained, is "a love that generates an attitude of gratitude and of mercy with the Lord, who 'became poor to enrich us with his poverty.'"

Concluding his reflections, Pope Francis prayed that this Lent would "be a time when, as individuals and communities, we heed the words of the Gospel, reflect on the mysteries of our faith, practice acts of penance and charity, and open our hearts ever more fully to God's grace and to the needs of our brothers and sisters."

Extending his greetings to groups present from various countries around the world, the Pope offered a special welcome to pilgrims who represent Malta, Denmark, Sweden, Indonesia, Canada, the United States, Spain, Mexico, and Argentina.

"May the Lenten journey we begin today bring us to Easter with hearts purified and renewed by the grace of the Holy Spirit," he said, inviting all to "invoke with confidence the help of the Virgin Mary."

The Pope asked that she "accompany us in these days of intense prayer and penance, to arrive to celebrate, purify and to be renewed in the Spirit, the great mystery of the Easter of her Son."