VATICAN (CWN) -- In his public audience on Ash Wednesday, Pope John Paul II said that the season of Lent is a time for man to free himself from "the false promises of earthly happiness" and to grow in Christian charity.

      The Holy Father's weekly catechesis centered on the spiritual struggle that should characterize the observance of Lent. The season, he said, should help Christians to recall "our condition as creature and our total dependence on God." He recommended more intense prayer, penance, and acts of charity as the means to reinvigorate the spiritual life.

      The individual Christian cannot win his own spiritual battles, the Pope warned; such victories can come only through the intercession of the Holy Spirit, to whom this year of preparation for the Jubilee has been dedicated.

      The Pope presided at the distribution of ashes at St. Sabina Basilica in Rome, in accordance with a Vatican custom. However, as in recent years, he did not participate in the traditional penitential procession through the streets of Rome before that ceremony.

      At the close of his weekly audience on February 25, the Pope issued a statement of solidarity with the people of Africa, and in particular those of Sierra Leone, who have been suffering because of civil war. He also voiced his solidarity with three missionaries who have disappeared last week, and for the "dozens" of religious who are missing from the Diocese of Mankeni.  

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February 27 - March 1, 1998 volume 9, no. 42         DAILY CATHOLIC