This Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent when Catholics bare the traditional cross of ashes on their forehead, as a sign of penance.
This year, Benedict XVI will receive ashes from Cardinal Josef Tomko, who will recite “Remember that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.”
For about 1,200 years, tradition marks that Pope usually leave the Vatican on Ash Wednesday, to celebrate the date in one of Rome's basilicas.
For decades now, the ceremony has taken place at the Basilica of San Anselmo in Rome's Avventino Hill. The pope then heads a procession that ends at the Basilica of Santa Sabina. The uphill procession symbolizes the effort Catholics make to be Holy.
A few days later, the Pope will suspend all meetings for seven days to take a spiritual retreat. It will begin on Sunday February 26 and conclude on Saturday March 3.
Preaching will be Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of the Congo. He's one of the important figures of the African Church, also one of the leading voices in defense of human rights.
Then, the pope will visit a Roman parish. This year he will go to San Giovanni Battista de La Salle al Torrino.
The schedule for this Lent ends with two big events: the visit of Anglican Primate Rowan Williams on 10 March, and the pope's trip to Mexico and Cuba from March 23rd to the 29th.
The pope will return to Rome three days before Palm Sunday, giving him only 72 hours to recuperate before the ceremonies of Holy Week.
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