Pope Francis kicked off the Christian Holy Week leading up to Easter by celebrating Palm Sunday Mass with pilgrims in Saint Peter's Square Sunday, while observances in Jerusalem have been overshadowed by a wave of unrest.
In Rome, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church lamented the "indifference" of the people who he said do not want to take on the responsibility of deciding the destiny of refugees who have overwhelmed Europe.
Pope Francis compared them to the local authorities who also washed their hands of Jesus' fate before his crucifixion.
Palm Sunday commemorates Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem, when palm branches were strewn in front of him. Later, he would be arrested and crucified.
In Jerusalem's Old City, Palm Sunday dawned to the sound of bells at the ancient Church of the Holy Sepulch.
Priests chanted the Palm Sunday liturgy waving olive and palm branches, but turnout was sparse this year in the wake of six months of Israeli-Palestinian violence.
Palestinian shopkeeper Abu Hassan said Holy Week usually brings crowds of tourists to the Old City bazaar, but not this year.
“The situation this year it is very bad. Not so many tourists are coming and is is very quiet. And we hope the problems will be finished and the people (will) come to visit this Holy Land," Hassan said.
However, the pilgrims who made the journey were glad they did.
Mark Caldwell, who came from the U.S. state of New Jersey, was fascinated by the mixture of Christians, Jews and Muslims in the Old City.
“It has been a lifelong dream of mine to be here and it is an amazing nexus of three Abrahamic religions. So it is important for me to be here. And it is an amazing historical and spiritual place," Caldwell said.
Holy Week continues with two major events: on Good Friday, Christians will retrace the footsteps of Jesus to the 14 Stations of the cross; and on Easter Sunday, they will celebrate the resurrection.
Later Sunday, in the United States, Fox TV is staging "The Passion," a live two-hour event about the final hours of the life of Jesus with a modern-day musical twist -- the story takes place in southern U.S. city of New Orleans.
The cast includes actor/singer Jencarlos Canela as Jesus, country singer Trisha Yearwood as Mary, and singer/songwriter Seal as Pontius Pilate. Filmmaker Tyler Perry is hosting the event.
PHOTOS: Palm Sunday celebrated around the worldView full gallery