Pope Francis has presided over a traditional Good Friday ceremony at the Colosseum in Rome. The service marks the passion and death of Christ and is broadcast globally.
Francis prayed for persecuted Christians around the world on the day Christians commemorate as that of Jesus' crucifixion.
"We see in you (Jesus) our persecuted brothers, beheaded and crucified because of their faith in you, before our eyes or often with our complicit silence," Francis said, following a traditional Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) procession. This marks the 14 stages of Christ's journey through Jerusalem - his suffering, crucifixion and burial.
People from many different countries - including Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Egypt, and China - took turns carrying a wooden cross marking the stages of the last hours of Jesus' life.
Tens of thousands of tourists and pilgrims held candles as they watched the ceremony at Rome's ancient Colosseum.
In a telegram earlier on Friday, Francis condemned the attack by Islamic militants on a university in Kenya as "senseless brutality." Survivors of the attack said al-Shabab gunmen had targeted Christians as they headed to morning prayer.
On Saturday night, Francis will celebrate an Easter Eve service in St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican - and on Sunday, he will give Easter Mass in St Peter's Square.
On Friday, Germans took to the streets in various cities for annual peace demonstrations. The biggest rally on Good Friday was in the western town of Gronau, where around 350 demonstrators were reported to have gathered in front of the main gate of the URENCO uranium enrichment facility to demand that it be shut down.
jr/gsw (AP, dpa, Reuters)