Thousands of Catholics pray with pope at Rome′s Colosseum | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 14.04.2017
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Thousands of Catholics pray with pope at Rome's Colosseum

Large crowds gathered to experience the Way of the Cross procession at the historic landmark. The procession took place this year under exceptionally high security.

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Christians observe Holy Week

Tens of thousands of Catholics gathered at the Colosseum in the Italian capital on Friday for the traditional Way of the Cross procession that commemorates the suffering and death of Jesus Christ, who was crucified by the Romans 2,000 years ago.

Pope Francis, who earlier took part in a Good Friday service in St. Peter's Basilica, prostrating himself in prayer for several minutes before the central altar, delivered a homily at the service. In it, he asked God for forgiveness for various scandals in the Catholic Church, and also spoke of the "shame" that humanity should feel at the daily deaths of innocent people in wars or at refugees drowning at sea.

The Catholic Church has been hit by numerous scandals in past years involving clergy who have sexually abused children. Church authorities have been accused of failing to punish bishops who covered up such abuse or did not do enough to prevent it.

Italien - Vatikan | Karfreitag 2017 Kreuzweg Via Crusis Kolosseum (Getty Images/F. Origlia)

The procession is a centuries-old tradition

High security

During the procession, the faithful traditionally take turns carrying a cross while accompanied by others holding lit candles. Texts are read out at the 14 "Stations of the Cross" that Catholics believe Jesus passed while being taken to his crucifixion.

This year, the texts, by French theologian Anne-Marie Pelletier, commemorated the fate of refugees and the victims of war and violence. The Colosseum itself is seen as a memorial to the martyrs of early Christianity who were put to death in the arena by Roman authorities because of their faith.

The procession this year took place under high security amid fears about big public gatherings after truck attacks targeting pedestrians in Nice, Berlin, London and Stockholm.

Police closed streets around the Colosseum to traffic hours before the event, and were out in force to guard worshipers. Bomb-sniffing dogs also patrolled the streets.

tj/bw (KNA, AP, dpa)

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