For the faithful, Lent should be a time of sincere repentance and genuine conversion, Pope Benedict XVI said as he led the Church of Rome in Ash Wednesday observances.
The Holy Father made the traditional procession from the church of St. Anselm on the Aventine Hill to the 5th-century basilica of Santa Sabina, where he presided at Mass and the imposition of ashes. The Pope received his own ashes from Cardinal Jozef Tombko, the titular pastor of Santa Sabina.
In his homily the Pope emphasized the need for real conversion, going beyond an outward show. He reminded the congregation that a merciful God is always ready to welcome any repentant sinner back into the life of grace.
Lent is also a time to bear witness to the world, the Pope added, noting that “indeed in many cases we are the only Gospel that people today still read.” The Pontiff said: “Here’s one more reason to live this Lent well: to offer a living witness of faith in a troubled world that needs to return to God—a world that needs conversion.”
Listen to the Vatican Radio store here... (including a description of the church and the Pope's visit)