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The Pope will celebrate Ash Wednesday at the Church of Saint Sabina



Pope Francis sprinkles Master of Pontifical Liturgical Ceremonies, Italian priest Guido Marini (L) with ashes during Ash Wednesday mass at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican on February 17, 2021.

Isabella H. de Carvalho - published on 02/11/23

After a two-year interruption Pope Francis will celebrate Ash Wednesday again at the Church of Saint Sabina on the Aventine hill in Rome.

Pope Francis will celebrate Ash Wednesday Mass on February 22, 2023, in the Roman Basilica of Saint Sabina, the Holy See Press Office announced on February 9, 2023. The Pontiff has not been able to honor this tradition for the last two years. In 2021 he could not preside due to his knee pain, and in 2020 he celebrated at the Vatican due to restrictions related to the pandemic. 

So after a two-year hiatus, Pope Francis will open the Lenten season from the Aventine hill, located in southern Rome. At 4:30 p.m. on February 22, after a brief moment of prayer a penitential procession will depart from the Church of Saint Anselm to the Basilica of Santa Sabina, about 350 meters away. 

There, at 5:00 p.m. Pope Francis will celebrate a Mass and bless the ashes he will use to trace a cross on the foreheads of the faithful. The ashes are obtained by burning branches and palms blessed the previous year, on the Sunday before Easter. The priest also pronounces the words: “Convert and believe in the Gospel.” 

The Pope comes back after two years

The last time Pope Francis came to the Basilica of Saint Sabina – held by the Dominicans since the 13th century – was in 2020, just before the Covid-19 pandemic hit Italy. In 2021, he celebrated Ash Wednesday Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica because of restrictions to contain the virus. 

In  2022, the Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, replaced Pope Francis in the celebrations at Santa Sabina. Only a few days before the event the Holy See had announced that the pontiff was suffering from acute knee pain and his doctor had thus prescribed “a period of greater rest.”

In the same time period, the Argentine Pope also did not attend a meeting of bishops and mayors from around the Mediterranean, held in Florence on February 27, 2022. In May of that year, he appeared for the first time in a wheelchair, which he has since used regularly.  

Although the pain in his right knee has not completely healed, Pope Francis seems to be in better shape than in previous months. On Wednesday, during the general audience, he walked for a few meters with a cane, three days after returning from his trip to Africa.

ChurchLentPope FrancisVatican
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