On fasting and abstinence during Lent

Circular Letter

With the rite of the imposition of ashes, which the Church celebrates this year on the 18th of February (Ash Wednesday), the liturgical time of Lent commences. It will end with the celebration of the Lord’s Supper on 2 April (Holy Thursday).
Lent is a time of renewal for the Church, for communities and for each one of the faithful. It is, above all, a “favorable time” of grace (cf II Cor 6:2).
In the Lenten Message for this year, Pope Francis reflects on the words of Saint James: “Strengthen your hearts” (Jas 5:8).
The Holy Father affirms that one of the most urgent challenges of humanity today is that of the globalization of indifference to one’s neighbor and to God. This is why the people of God needs renewal, so as not to fall into indifference and be enclosed in itself. To fight this phenomenon of globalization of indifference, Pope Francis proposes the following biblical texts for the meditation of all the people of God:
1. “If one member suffers, all suffer together.” (I Cor 12:26)
2. “Where is your brother?” (Gen 4:9)
3. “Strengthen your hearts.” (Jas 5:8)
Finally, the Holy Father invites us to ask Jesus for a strong and merciful heart, vigilant and generous, which does is not closed upon itself or falls into the cycle of globalization of indifference.
Through this circular, we ask the Reverend Parish Priests, all other priests and others who have pastoral responsibilities to try to implement the following:
a. To explain to the faithful the Pope’s message on the Sunday before or after Ash Wednesday;
b. Exhort the faithful to penance, with personal initiative, trying to reduce entertainment activities and increasing their acts of charity, especially by giving alms for the poor;
c. Help the faithful know the Passion of the Lord, exhorting them to accompany the suffering of Christ in different ways, for example, through the reading of Sacred Scripture, in particular those portions that relate the Passion; through fasting and other practices proper of this liturgical time, such as the Way of the Cross;
d. Remind the faithful that since the 18th of February (Ash Wednesday) coincides with the festive season of the Lunar New Year, they are dispensed from fasting and abstinence; and that also since the 20th and 27th of February (Fridays of Lent) fall within the same festive season, the faithful are also dispensed from abstinence. It is necessary, however, to remind the faithful that Good Friday (which falls on 3 April this year) is a day of fasting and abstinence; and that the other Fridays of the rest of the year are days of abstinence.

Given in the Episcopal Palace, Macau, on 23 February 2015.

José Lai
Bishop of Macau

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