(KCEN) -- The Mardi Gras festivities are over and today marks the first day of Lent in the Catholic church.
It's also known as Ash Wednesday.
The 40 days of Lent are a period of penance, reflection and fasting in preparation for Christ's resurrection on Easter Sunday.
Meanwhile a time frame has been set for Cardinals to meet to select a new Pope.
The Vatican announced today that a successor to Pope Benedict will start as early as March 15.
The Pope made an appearance in Vatican City for Ash Wednesday.
He thanked a crowd of over 8,000 for their thoughts and prayers.
He also explained that he thought long and hard about his decision and he decided his resignation was good for the church.