Video of pope's Lenten retreat

Pope Benedict XVI and the Roman Curia began their Lenten retreat with Eucharistic exposition and the celebration of Vespers.

The exercises, which will take place in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel of the Vaticans Apostolic Palace, will continue all week in the presence of Benedict XVI, with sessions in the morning and the afternoon.

They will come to an end on Saturday, February 27th, and during the retreat all audiences will be cancelled, including the weekly general audience on Wednesday, February 24th.

This years meditations will be directed by the Salesian priest, Fr. Enrico Dal Covolo, an expert in early Christianity. Father dal Covolo was to offer 17 talks and meditations on the priesthood. He will preach on the theme: "Lessons from God and the Church on Priestly Vocations."

Before beginning his annual Lenten retreat, Benedict encouraged Catholics around the world to practice prayer and penitence in the weeks leading up to Easter. The entire period of Lent should be like "a long 'retreat' during which people can return inside themselves and listen to the voice of God, in order to overcome the temptations of the Evil One," the pope said.

He described Lent as a time of spiritual training, undertaken not with an attitude of pride, but in an effort to live more closely with Jesus through prayerful reflection and penitential practices.

The importance of spiritual fortification in order to resist temptation was illustrated by the Gospel account of Christ's own temptations by Satan in the desert, the pope said. "Christ came into the world to free us from sin and from the ambiguous fascination of designing our lives without God. He did so not with high-sounding proclamations, but by fighting personally against the tempter, right up to the cross," the pope said.

"This example is valid for everyone: the world is made better beginning with oneself, by changing, with the grace of God, whatever is wrong in one's own life," he said.

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