Pope Benedict XVI spoke before thousands at the ancient Roman Colosseum on Good Friday. He focused on upholding Catholic family values and persevering through economic crises.
Pope Benedict XVI started his evening on Good Friday at the Vatican by kneeling in silent prayer before presiding over Rome's Via Crucis procession at the Colosseum.
At the ancient amphitheatre, the pontiff called for perseverance in the face of an economic crisis that has led to hardship and rising unemployment across Europe.
"At times of trouble, when our families have to face pain and adversity, let us look to Christ's cross. There we can find the courage and the strength to press on," the pope said.
Friday's procession commemorated the last hours leading to Jesus' crucifixion. This year, the pontiff followed proceedings from a platform on the Palatine Hill overlooking the ancient Roman amphitheatre.
The candle-lit ceremony touched on the theme of Catholic family values, and the pope asked an Italian couple, married for 59 years, to write a series of reflections on the joys and sufferings of family life, which were read out in intervals throughout the ceremony.
The couple, Danilo and Annamaria Zanzucchi, who have five children and 12 grandchildren, are co-founders of the Focolare Movement, a Catholic organization promoting family life, which they also led for many years.
Trials and tribulations of family life
The Zanzucchi's reflections were released by the Vatican before the ceremony. They focused on the joys, trials and tribulations of family life.
"How many times have our families fallen? How many separations, betrayals! And divorces, abortions, abandonments!" the couple wrote.
"Jesus, help us understand what love is; teach us to ask forgiveness," they added.
Families from Italy, Ireland, Burkina Faso and Peru took turns throughout the procession carrying a wooden cross.
Since becoming pope in 2005, Benedict has focused repeatedly on Catholic family teachings, speaking out against divorce, same-sex unions and abortion.
The pontiff looked tired during Friday's events, having returned last week from a tour in Latin America, but his schedule is full this weekend.
On Saturday, the pope will lead an Easter vigil at St. Peter's Basilica, and he will celebrate mass in St. Peter's on Easter Sunday before his Urbi et Orbi message and blessing "to the city and the world."
tm/ncy (dpa, AP, Reuters)