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ROME —Pope Francis has urged Roman Catholic faithful to free themselves from the "clutches of consumerism and the snares of selfishness" as he marked the start of Lent, the period of prayer and fasting before Easter.
Francis led a procession and then celebrated Ash Wednesday Mass at the basilica of Santa Sabina, one of Rome's most beautiful.
In his homily, Francis said the 40-day period of Lent is a "wakeup call for the soul" to rediscover the direction of life.
He said: "We need to free ourselves from the clutches of consumerism and the snares of selfishness, from always wanting more, from never being satisfied, and from a heart closed to the needs of the poor."
At the end of Lent, Christians commemorate the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.