Pope John Paul has asked Catholics worldwide to dedicate Ash Wednesday, 5 March "to prayer and fasting for the cause of peace, especially in the Middle East." Speaking to the crowds gathered for the Angelus in St Peter's Square on Sunday, he said: "For months," he began his reflections, "the international community has lived in great apprehension of the danger of a war that could unsettle the entire Middle East region and aggravate the tensions unfortunately already present at the start of this millennium. It is the duty of believers, whatever their religion, to proclaim that never can we be happy if one is set against the other, that the future of mankind can never be assured by terrorism and the logic of war." The Holy Father said that "we Christians in particular are called to be sentinels of peace in the places in which we live and work. We have been asked, that is, to be vigilant so that consciences do not give in to the temptation of egoism, lies and violence." Asking Catholics to fast and pray for peace on Ash Wednesday, he said: "We will above all implore God for the conversion of hearts and the farsightedness to make just decisions in order to resolve with adequate and pacific means the strife that hinders mankind on its journey in our times." Pope John Paul also asked that peace be implored in Marian shrines, in parishes and in families with the prayer of the Rosary. "This choir of invocations will be accompanied by fasting, an expression of penance for the hatred and violence that pollute human relations. Christians share the ancient practice of fasting with so many brothers and sisters of other religions who, by so doing, intend to rid themselves of all arrogance and to ready themselves to receive from God the greatest and most necessary gifts, including in particular that of peace." source: VIS
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