Return with tears to God’s loving embrace during Lent, pope says

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February 18, 2015

Pope Francis celebrates Ash Wednesday Mass at  Basilica of Santa Sabina in Rome

Pope Francis gives ashes during Ash Wednesday Mass at the Basilica of Santa Sabina in Rome Feb. 18. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

ROME (CNS) — Lent is a journey of purification and penance, a movement that should bring one tearfully back to the loving arms of the merciful Father, Pope Francis said at an Ash Wednesday Mass that began with a procession on Rome’s Aventine Hill.

After walking from the Benedictine monastery of St. Anselm to the Dominican-run Basilica of Santa Sabina Feb. 18, Pope Francis celebrated Mass. He received ashes on the top of his head from Cardinal Jozef Tomko, titular cardinal of the basilica, and distributed ashes to the Benedictines, the Dominicans, his closest aides and a family of five.

When a priest places ashes on one’s head or forehead, he recites: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return” or “Repent and believe in the Gospel.”

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