President Biden Begins Lent With Ashes, Prayers for Ukraine and a Surprisingly Relatable Lenten Sacrifice

“You know me, I start off with dessert,” the president said of making a Lenten sacrifice

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Photo: Alex Brandon/AP/Shutterstock

After delivering his first State of the Union Address at the U.S. Capitol the night before, President Joe Biden began the observation of Lent on Wednesday by receiving ashes and saying prayers for Ukrainians as the Russian invasion of the European country continues.

"I was with the Cardinal this morning," the president, 79, said as he and First Lady Jill Biden departed for a trip to Minnesota and Wisconsin to promote his infrastructure legislation. "He came over to give me ashes. We both prayed for the people of Ukraine."

Biden is a devout Catholic — only the second to be elected president after President John F. Kennedy — and regularly attends mass on the weekends in Washington or in Delaware and to mark important occasions, like his Inauguration, and solemn moments like the anniversary of his son Beau Biden's death in 2015.

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Pope Francis asked for prayers for Ukraine on Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of the season of Lent.

"I think he's right," Biden said.

The day is also the start of a period of repentance and reflection for Roman Catholics and other Christians.

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Asked if he's giving anything up for Lent by pool reporters gathered on the South Lawn of the White House, Biden said he's making a Lenten sacrifice by forgoing "all sweets."

"You know me," he said, "I start off with dessert."

The president is famously a big fan of ice cream — but even his favorite treat is off the table for 40 days when the renunciation of an indulgence ends three days before Easter.

"No ice cream," Biden said. "Nothing."

Biden was also asked about his faith and how he reconciles being a Catholic with his support of women's reproductive rights, including abortion.

"I'm not going to make a judgement for other people," he said.

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