As Christians around the world commemorated the crucifixion of Christ, Pope Francis denounced terrorism and indifference to refugees. The pontiff called on people not to be overwhelmed by the "apparent victory of evil."
In his Good Friday prayers, Pope Francis condemned "terrorist acts committed by followers of some religions which profane the name of God and which use the holy name to justify their unprecedented violence." His comments came after Tuesday's attacks in Brussels, which left 31 dead and 270 wounded.
The 79-year-old pontiff also referred to the refugee crisis, saying, "O Cross of Christ, today we see you in the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas which have become insatiable cemeteries, reflections of our indifferent and anaesthetized conscience."
The pope also listened to a lengthy meditation by Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, who deplored the conditions of "the millions of refugees desperately fleeing the horror of war, persecution and dictatorship."
Pope Francis' address came after he led a Good Friday procession at Rome's Colosseum amid tightened security, with police and sniffer dogs inspecting the ancient arena before the procession began. Thousands of people gathered during the march, holding candles and prayer books.
Two Syrians joined Russian, Chinese and Central African believers in carrying the wooden cross along the Via Crucis or the Way of the Cross.
Pope Francis will also take part in an evening vigil at St Peter's Basilica on Saturday before delivering his twice-yearly "Urbi et Orbi" blessing to the world on Easter Sunday.
Pilgrims arrive in Jerusalem
A few thousand Palestinian Christians and pilgrims from around the world reached Jerusalem's Old City on Good Friday, the day on which Jesus Christ is believed to have been crucified.
Most Palestinian Christians celebrate Easter on May 1, but those from the Catholic and Western churches are holding their ceremonies this weekend.
Several people carried crosses and many others sang hymns as they walked the same path to crucifixion as Christ is believed to have done. Security guards were deployed in large numbers in the Old City, blocked off after recent events of violence.
News agencies also reported bloody reenactments of Christ's crucifixion in Philippines' Pampanga province. Thousands came to watch seven men being crucified in the village of San Pedro Cutud. Five other penitents were nailed to the cross in San Juan and Santa Lucia, and another three in Angeles City.
Easter is an important festival in the Philippines, where more than 85 percent of the population is Catholic. The Catholic Church in the country does not encourage the reenactments, but does little to stop them.
mg/cmk (KNA, Reuters)