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Pope Francis celebrates Good Friday

Pope Francis has again broken with precedent as he celebrates the Catholic Church's most important days of the year. For Good Friday's traditional procession, young people from the Middle East have written prayers.

The new pontiff's schedule in Rome on Friday was centered on two events. In the late afternoon in St Peter's Basilica with the recitation of the Passion of Christ, the story of the last hours of Jesus' life.

Prayers for peace in the Middle East have been specially written for the traditional, torch-lit procession "Via Crucis" (Way of the Cross) around Rome's Colosseum in the evening. The procession takes place around the 2,000-year-old Colosseum because it is believed that Christians died there in Roman times.

The prayers had been written by a group of Lebanese young people chosen by the Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai. They include texts: "Come, Holy Spirit, to console and strengthen Christians, especially those from the Middle East." Another reads: "Let us pray that the displaced and the forced migrants may soon return to their homes and lands."

Good Friday is the day in the Catholic calendar which commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death at Calvary. It is the second of four intensive days in the Christian calendar ending on Easter Sunday, which marks Christ's resurrection and is the holiest day for Christian believers.

A break with the past

On Holy Thursday, Pope Francis washed and kissed inmates' feet at a prison in Rome. It was the first time a pontiff had performed the ritual in a prison, and the first time it included women and Muslims.

"Whoever is the most high up must be at the service of others," Pope Francis said at the mass in the Casal del Marmo youth prison.

Earlier, during a mass in St. Peter's Basilica he had commented: "Those who do not go out of themselves, instead of being mediators, gradually become intermediaries, managers."

Francis has already broken with several Vatican traditions. He is still living in the Domus Santa Martha, a modern hotel-style residence inside the Vatican City and not in the recently renovated papal apartments in the Apostolic Palace overlooking Saint Peter's Square.

Works have finished, but the pope has expressed a desire to "experiment with a form of simple and communal living with other priests," Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said last week. He added it was not clear how long the experiment of hotel living will last.

Lombardi said the pope will be using the offices in the Apostolic Palace and its grand, frescoed reception rooms to meet heads of state and delegations, and will appear each Sunday to deliver a blessing from the window of the papal apartments.

However, Pope Francis is yet to begin tackling the many problems facing the Catholic Church including reform of the scandal-ridden Vatican bureaucracy and bank.


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