For Christians, this is the first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday. At the Vatican, Pope Benedict marked the day with a call for people to overcome indifference to the poor and share what they have with the needy.
The 40 days of Lent are traditionally an austere period of personal sacrifice and reflection leading up to Good Friday, when Christians recall Christ's crucifixion, and Easter, when they celebrate the joy of his resurrection.
Pope Benedict underscored the message today to pilgrims and tourists in St. Peter's Square. He said it's an occasion to pay attention "to the needs of the poorest and abandoned ones."
Later he'll be leading Mass at a church in Rome in a ceremony that will include the placing of ashes on the heads of the faithful, a gesture that symbolizes mortality.