(CNSNews.com) – A week after every Roman Catholic bishop in the United States denounced his decision to move forward with a regulation that will force American Catholics to act against the teachings of their faith by requiring that they purchase health insurance plans that pay for sterilizations, contraceptives and abortifacients, President Barack Obama issued a three-sentence statement saying he and his wife are honoring Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.
The president's statement on Ash Wednesday did not mention Jesus Christ, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection or Easter.
“Today, Michelle and I honor Ash Wednesday with Christians around the country and across the world,” Obama said. “This is at once a solemn and joyous occasion, an opportunity to remember both the depths of sacrifice and the height of redemption. We join millions in entering the Lenten Season with truly thankful hearts, mindful of our faith and our obligations to one another.”
Ash Wednesday, which falls on Feb. 22 this year, marks the beginning of Lent, a period of 40 days during which the faithful make sacrifices and fast on certain days to commemorate Christ’s passion and death and to prepare for Easter, which this year will fall on April 8. Lent is observed by Catholics as well as Christians of other denominations.
In the Catholic Church on Ash Wednesday, people attend Mass and at the end of Mass the priests place the sign of the cross on their foreheads in ashes, saying: Remember, man, thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return."
Obama issued statements for Ash Wednesday for 2011 and 2010 that are posted on the White House Web site.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have declared that Obama's regulation forcing all health-care plans sold in the United States to cover sterilizations, contraceptives and abortifacients an "unprecedented attack on religious liberty." The church teaches that sterilization, artificial contraception and abortion are morally wrong and that Catholics should not be involved in them. In letters read in Catholic parishes around the country, bishops have said of Obama's regulation: "We cannot--we will not--comply with this unjust law."