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A time of penitence

Deacon Fred Johns places ashes on the forehead of a parishioner with the prayer, "Repent and believe in the Gospel," at the 6:30 a.m. Mass Wednesday at St. Pius X Catholic Church in Conyers. The distribution of ashes as a reminder of penitence in preparation for Easter has a long tradition in many churches. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, the 40-day season preceding Easter. Priests or ministers mark the foreheads of parishioners with black ashes in the shape of the cross to signify repentance. Expressing a more personal view after the service, Father John Kieran quipped, "We gathered together on Ash Wednesday to pray for an Irish pope," referring to the announcement Monday that Pope Benedict planned to retire.  -- Staff Photo: Lee Depkin

Deacon Fred Johns places ashes on the forehead of a parishioner with the prayer, "Repent and believe in the Gospel," at the 6:30 a.m. Mass Wednesday at St. Pius X Catholic Church in Conyers. The distribution of ashes as a reminder of penitence in preparation for Easter has a long tradition in many churches. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, the 40-day season preceding Easter. Priests or ministers mark the foreheads of parishioners with black ashes in the shape of the cross to signify repentance. Expressing a more personal view after the service, Father John Kieran quipped, "We gathered together on Ash Wednesday to pray for an Irish pope," referring to the announcement Monday that Pope Benedict planned to retire. -- Staff Photo: Lee Depkin

Deacon Fred Johns places ashes on the forehead of a parishioner with the prayer, "Repent and believe in the Gospel," at the 6:30 a.m. Mass Wednesday at St. Pius X Catholic Church in Conyers. The distribution of ashes as a reminder of penitence in preparation for Easter has a long tradition in many churches. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, the 40-day season preceding Easter. Priests or ministers mark the foreheads of parishioners with black ashes in the shape of the cross to signify repentance. Expressing a more personal view after the service, Father John Kieran quipped, "We gathered together on Ash Wednesday to pray for an Irish pope," referring to the announcement Monday that Pope Benedict planned to retire. -- Staff Photo: Lee Depkin