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Pope’s Lenten message: focus on ‘integral ecology’

February 01, 2024

“If our celebration of Lent is to be concrete, the first step is to desire to open our eyes to reality,” writes Pope Francis in his Lenten Message for 2024.

The Pope’s message, entitled Through the Desert God Leads us to Freedom, was released on February 1, with a Vatican press conference introducing the document and discussing its main themes.

Pope Francis likens the penitential season of Lent—which begins on Ash Wednesday, February 14—to the journey of the Hebrew people through the desert, from oppression in Egypt to freedom in the Holy Land. He tells the faithful that “even today we remain under the rule of Pharaoh.”

That rule, the Pontiff continues, is “a model of growth that divides and robs us of a future. Earth, air and water are polluted, but so are our souls.” The rule of Pharaoh, as he explains it, also extends to a “king of attraction to the security of familiar things, to the detriment of our freedom.”

To break away from this rule, the Pope says, the season of Lent takes the faithful through the desert. He makes the paradoxical statement: “It is time to act, and in Lent, to act also means to pause. To pause in prayer.”

Pope Francis does not focus on penance in his message, except to condemn the public penance of hypocrites—“the kind of penance that so dismayed Jesus.” However he exhorts Christians to “rethink their lifestyles.” He continues:

Lent is also a time of communitarian decisions, of decisions, small and large, that are countercurrent. Decisions capable of altering the daily lives of individuals and entire neighborhoods, such as the ways we acquire goods, care for creation, and strive to include those who go unseen or are looked down upon.

Press conference

In an indication of the Pope’s focus on social action, the Vatican press conference introducing the papal message was led by Cardinal Michael Czerny, SJ, the prefect of the Dicastery for Integral Human Development. The cardinal observed that the Lenten Message echoes the themes of the Pope’s social encyclicals, Laudato Si’ and Fratelli Tutti. “Here we see the pastoral paradigms of integral ecology, fraternity, and social friendship reshaping evangelization,” he said.

Emilia Palladino, a social-science professor at the Gregorian University, followed up by citing statistics about the number of people in the world who lack adequate health care, the number of young people exploited in child labor, and the number caught up in human trafficking.

Mauro Pallotta, an artist known as “Maupal,” concluded the Vatican presentation by saying that he would produce a drawing every week to illustrate a message from the papal message. He remarked that his approach would be “a preferential way of reaching far, breaking down barriers and somehow accompanying people to cross the desert to reach the desired goal of freedom.”


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  • Posted by: feedback - Feb. 02, 2024 10:32 AM ET USA

    The message includes "slavery" 9 times, "Egypt" 5 times, "Pharaoh" 4 times, and "conversion" 3 times but there is not a single mention of sin. A "conversion" is into "a burst of creativity." It would be the responsibility of the Papal advisors and proofreaders to prevent the Successor of Peter from issuing texts like this.