POPE, AT AUDIENCE, ASKS ALL TO SHARE IN PRAYER, WORK FOR PEACE

VATICAN, Mar 5, 03 (CWNews.com) -- At his regular weekly public audience on Ash Wednesday, Pope John Paul II said that the season of Lent should be "a time of intense prayer, penance, and greater attention to our needy brothers."

Speaking to about 6,500 people in the Paul VI auditorium, the Holy Father also emphasized the need to pray for peace in the world. The Pope-- who had asked Christians to pray especially for peace on Ash Wednesday-- said that every believer has a duty to work for peace.

"As we enter into Lent, we cannot fail to notice the current international context, in which we see menacing threats of war." In response, he said, "We must, first of all, ask God for conversion of heart."

The Pope offered his own prayer "that this day of prayer and fasting for peace will translate itself into concrete gestures of reconciliation." He concluded: "may each of us feel, and become, sharers in the responsibility for building up peace."

As the people who had attended the audience filed out of the crowded Vatican auditorium, they mixed with a crowd of several hundred demonstrators who had gathered in St. Peter's Square to express their support for the Vatican's efforts to stop war. The demonstrators carried banners and rainbow signs proclaiming their opposition to military action against Iraq.