Around the world, Christians commemorated Good Friday with solemn observances, both large and small.
In Rome, Pope Benedict XVI encouraged those threatened by unemployment and other economic woes to draw courage and strength from the suffering of the crucified Jesus Christ as the pontiff presided over a Good Friday candlelit Way of the Cross procession at the ancient Colosseum.
In Jerusalem, a procession wound through the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, traditionally believed to be the burial site of Jesus.
Volunteers dressed as Roman centurions drove nails through the palms of Catholic devotees in the Philippines, in a re-enactment of the crucifixion of Christ.
Hundreds of processions took place in Spain during Easter Week, including one in Valencia where worshippers flocked to the icon of the Santisimo Cristo de Salvador on Friday to pray for those who died in the sea.
Good Friday was an official holiday in Cuba for the first time in a half century, but few Roman Catholics on the island seemed to be using the day off to attend services.
Cuba’s communist government declared the holiday to honor a request that Pope Benedict XVI made during last week’s visit. Only a few more worshippers than usual were noted inside Havana’s Catholic churches on Friday.
Processions were held around the rest of Latin America, including especially eye-opening ones in Guatemala where streets in some cities were carpeted with flowers and colored sawdust.
“I’m not Catholic, but I respect them,” said Gladys Ocampo, among Cuban workers who got the day off. “I’m happy to have a holiday I wasn’t counting on.”
Benedict, who turns 85 on April 16, didn’t carry the cross during the hourlong procession itself in Rome. Instead, he listened intently to meditations on suffering that he had asked an elderly Italian couple to compose for the traditional ceremony. Then, as the final reflection was read aloud, the pontiff was handed the slender, lightweight wooden cross, which he held steadily for a few minutes.
Thousands of tourists, pilgrims and Romans jammed the boulevard outside the Colosseum and the ancient Roman Forum to pray with him on a mild, cloudy night and listen to hymns.