Pope cancels Lenten ceremony

Sunday, January 11, 2004

VATICAN CITY -- In the latest sign of concern over his frail health, Pope John Paul II has canceled his traditional Ash Wednesday service at a Rome basilica, the Vatican said Saturday. For decades, John Paul would open the Catholic church's solemn Lenten period with a ceremony in St. Sabina's Basilica, a 5th-century church in Rome. Instead, the pope will preside over a prayer ceremony including a blessing and smudging of the ashes on the faithful in a Vatican auditorium on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 25.

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