Pope Francis has managed to raise a few more eyebrows once again by saying that it is not obligatory for Catholics to fast during Lent. In his Ash Wednesday sermon, the Pontiff had this to say:
"My dear children, as you know, today marks the start of the 40-day Lenten period and traditionally it is a time when we as Catholics do some self-inspection and try to get closer to God by saying the Rosary daily - concentrating on the Sorrowful Mysteries, going to confession and abstaining from certain foods and drinks."
"Of course, the latter is done as a commemoration of the forty days that Jesus spent in the wilderness where he fasted and prayed and was tempted by the Devil. This has been a Catholic tradition for centuries. Even Jesus said that we must fast in Matthew 6:16. But I must ask, did Jesus command that we are to fast during a specific time of the year or did he leave that open for us to decide? If the answers to those questions are no and yes respectively, then why is it that Catholics typically have the belief that they must fast during the Lenten period?"
Pope Francis went on:
"There is absolutely no scripture that states that we are obligated to fast during the Lenten season. In fact the word Lent as a proper noun is not even mentioned in the Bible. I know that a lot of us have been taught differently through certain traditions which were passed down through the centuries, but the fact of the matter is that a lot of these so-called traditions have absolutely no scriptural justification. So if one doesn't feel obligated to fast around this time of year, who am I to tell him or her that he or she is compelled to fast?"
As most of the congregation looked on bewilderedly, the Pontiff proceeded:
"A person can fast whenever it is convenient for him or her. It doesn't specifically have to be during Lent. If one feels to eat chicken, pork or beef during this time or even drink alcohol, then so be it. But of course regarding the latter, make sure that it is done in moderation so as not to bring about drunkenness. I can guarantee you that God will not love you any less."
He ended that sermon by saying:
"So while I may be the Vicar of Christ, I am in no way Christ himself. Whether or not you feel to fast during Lent is up to you. Let your conscience be your guide. Thank you my dear children, and may our dear Mother bless all of us."