VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis presided over his first Good Friday which will culminate in a torch-lit procession at Rome’s Colosseum and prayers for peace.
The new pontiff attended a recital of the Passion of Christ - the story of the last hours of Jesus’s life - in St Peter’s Basilica ahead of the Colosseum ceremony.
The 2,000-year-old amphitheatre is used as a backdrop for the ceremony because of the belief that Christians were martyred there in Roman times, even though there is no evidence of this. Italian families, Chinese trainee priests, Lebanese and Nigerian nuns and a delegation of young people from Brazil will take it in turns to carry a large wooden cross during the procession.
The meditations read out during the ceremony were written by a group of Lebanese young people chosen by the Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai, who in turn was asked to come up with the prayers this year by Francis’s predecessor Benedict XVI.
“Come, Holy Spirit, to console and strengthen Christians, especially those from the Middle East so that, united in Christ, they may be witnesses of your universal love in an area torn apart by injustice and conflicts,” reads one of the prayers.
“Let us pray that the displaced and the forced migrants may soon return to their homes and lands.”
The ceremonies come after a mass in a youth prison on Thursday in which the pope washed the feet of 12 inmates including two Muslims, an unprecedented version of a traditional pre-Easter ritual.