Pope Francis ushers in Lent at Ash Wednesday service
ROME (Reuters) - Pope Francis led Roman Catholics into the season of Lent at a traditional Ash Wednesday Mass, urging the faithful to use the time to put aside materialism and self-centeredness and help others.
Participants, including the pope, had ashes sprinkled on their heads in the customary reminder of mortality during the service in the Basilica of Santa Sabina on Rome's Aventine Hill.
"The ashes we receive this evening tell us that every
presumption of self-sufficiency is false and that self-idolatry is destructive, imprisoning us in isolation and loneliness," Francis said in his homily.
A cardinal sprinkled the ashes on the pope's head.
"How often do we get caught up in our own wants and needs, lose sight of the heart of the matter, and fail to embrace the true meaning of our lives in this world!" Francis said.
The 86-year-old pope said Christians should try to touch the sufferings of the poor, truly listen to those in need, and make sacrifices during the 40-day period leading to Easter Sunday, which falls on April 9 this year.
He urged his listeners to "use these forty days to take stock of ourselves, to free ourselves from the dictatorship of full schedules, crowded agendas and superficial needs, and choose the things that truly matter".
Francis will mark the 10th anniversary of his election during Lent. An Argentine, he became the first pope from Latin America on March 13, 2013.
(This story has been refiled to add a dropped word in paragraph 1)
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by David Gregorio)