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Good Friday events celebrate the crucifixion of Christ ahead of Easter

Christians are celebrating Good Friday in honor of the crucifixion of Jesus. In the Philippines, nine men were nailed to crosses in a bloody annual spectacle before thousands of onlookers.

Over the decades, the crucifixion ritual has become a major tourist draw to the area around the Pampanga province city of San Fernando, about 70 kilometres (40 miles) northwest of the capital, Manila. Roughly 80 percent of the country's population identifies itself as Catholic. The head of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines discouraged the crucifixions, which up to 40,000 people watched on Friday.

"If what you do makes you love others more, then it is pleasing to God," Archbishop Socrates Villegas said. "But if you do it for photographs, just to be famous, that is spiritual vanity."

The health department also discourages the practice and urges devotees to get tetanus shots.

Holy land celebrates

In Jerusalem, pilgrims flocked to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Christians believe Romans crucified Christ before burying his corpse in a cave, from which he emerged on Easter Sunday, celebrated this year on April 20. Though no one was crucified this Friday in Jerusalem, pilgrims re-enacted other scenes from the Bible.

This year, the calendar used by Eastern Orthodox Christians overlaps with that employed by Roman Catholics and Protestants, causing all of the faith's followers to celebrate Easter at the same time and leading to large crowds. In 2014, the Easter holiday also coincides with the Jewish Passover.

Religiously diverse Germany

celebrated the federal holiday with a 1,000-strong procession

in heavily secular Berlin.

Representatives from the four parties with seats in the federal parliament took part. Berlin's protestant Bishop Markus Dröge lamented the ongoing violence affecting ordinary people in Syria, "who for generations have wanted to live in a religiously and culturally mixed society."

In Rome, Pope Francis washed the feet of a dozen men with disabilities ranging in age from 16 and 86, including one Muslim man from Libya.

mkg/msh (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

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