"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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The main event of the third day of the 11th meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club in Sochi was the closing session with President Vladimir Putin. The atmosphere was calm and open, despite the current political tensions and the Russia-West confrontation. The Russian president said that it corresponded to the spirit of the Valdai Club.