06:12 GMT +324 September 2017

    Russia's Catholics mark beginning of Lent

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    MOSCOW, March 1 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's 600,000-strong Roman Catholic community on Wednesday observed the first day of Lent, with worshippers across the country putting ashes on their foreheads in a symbolic ritual of repentance.

    "In the Roman Catholic Church, by centuries-old tradition Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, this year falling on March 1," Igor Kovalevsky, head of the Conference of Russian Catholic Bishops, told RIA Novosti. "Ashes symbolize penitence and the frailty of human life."

    Lent lasts for the 40 days before Easter and culminates in Holy Week, which commemorates the events leading up to Jesus' crucifixion on what is now known as Good Friday.

    Catholics are less observant of Lenten fasts than Russian Orthodox Christians, Kovalevsky said. Whereas Eastern traditions ban consumption of fish, eggs, dairy produce and meat throughout Lent, Catholics aged 14-60 simply cut down to one full meal and two smaller meals a day, and abstain from meat and poultry on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

    "But we pay particular attention to the spiritual dimension [of penance]," Kovalevsky said, calling on the Russian Catholics to spend more time praying, reading the Scriptures, doing charitable work and attending church services.

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