For the second year, Pope Benedict led the traditional Way of the Cross procession in Rome's ancient Coliseum. Thousands took part in the solemn ceremony. For VOA, Sabina Castelfranco reports from Rome.
Pope Benedict carried the cross at the start and the end of the Way of the Cross procession at the Coliseum in Rome. The procession at the ancient Roman amphitheater is a tradition on Good Friday that commemorates the suffering of Jesus before his crucifixion.
Speaking at the start of the procession, Pope Benedict said that recalling the steps of Jesus in the last hours of his earthly life would be a voyage in pain, in solitude, in cruelty, in evil and in death, but also a journey in faith, hope and in love.
A large crowd of faithful carrying candles turned out for the event, including many of the pilgrims who come to the Italian capital for Holy Week. They watched as the cross was carried for 14 stations.
Pope Benedict said the sepulcher of the last stop would not remain sealed forever. After the evening, in the dawn of Easter, the light of joy will rise, and silence will be replaced by the word of life, and death will be replaced by the resurrection.
Earlier in the afternoon, Benedict presided over the Passion of the Lord service in St. Peter's Basilica, which lasted more than two hours.
The papal household's official preacher read out a lengthy homily in which he made several references to the role of women and said they should not try to erase the differences between genders.
The preacher said that women, in order to assert their dignity, have at times felt the need to take on male attitudes or to minimize the differences between sexes. The papal preacher said that there is reason to hope that humanity will finally enter an era of the woman: an era of heart and compassion.
On Saturday evening Pope Benedict will celebrate an Easter vigil mass and on Sunday he will deliver his "Urbi et Orbi" - to the city and the world - blessing and message.