Vatican City, Feb 8, 2005 / 22:00 pm
This morning at 10:30, Cardinal James Francis Stafford, major penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary, presided at Ash Wednesday Mass in St. Peter's Basilica in the place of the Holy Father who remains at the Gemelli hospital.
The celebration took the place of the traditional Wednesday general audience and included a rite of introduction, the liturgy of the Word and homily, the blessing and distribution of ashes, the Lord's prayer and concluding rites.
In his homily, Cardinal Stafford spoke of "the joy and honor of presiding this ceremony in the Holy Father's name. We feel his spiritual presence among us and we think of him with affection and ask the Lord to give him the graces necessary for the charism of his primacy in confirming our brothers in the unity of the faith."
Quoting today's first reading, he said that everyone is called "to the duty of conversion.”