Pope to lead Good Friday procession at the Colosseum in Rome

Pilgrims and tourists have flocked to the Colosseum for the Way of the Cross procession to join Pope Francis for a Good Friday night ritual in Rome.

The procession commemorates the suffering of Jesus.

This year, meditations to be read aloud during the ceremony will reflect on the modern-day plight of migrants whose traffickers force them to endure prostitution and other humiliations.

Pope Francis lies down in prayer at the Vatican (Alessandra Tarantino/AP)

As part of heightened security, buses and other traffic were rerouted away from the ancient Roman arena for the evocative, torch-carrying procession, which draws thousands of faithful annually.

Composing the meditations for Way of the Cross, or Via Crucis, event was an Italian missionary nun, Eugenia Bonetti, who has worked for a quarter-century rescuing migrants and other women forced into prostitution on Italy’s streets by human traffickers and other exploiters.

Francis has frequently championed the welfare of migrants and denounced human traffickers.

In an early evening prayer service in St Peter’s Basilica, Francis listened in silence to a homily by the papal preacher.

Readings focused on the torture and suffering Jesus endured before being executed upon a wooden cross.

Pope Francis stands in front of a crucifix as he marks Mass for the Passion of Christ (Alessandra Tarantino/AP)

Wearing bright-red coloured robes to symbolise the blood shed by Jesus, Francis was helped by aides to kneel in quiet reflection, with his head bowed and hands folded.

He also took his turn kissing a crucifix held up in the centre aisle of the cavernous basilica, then pressed his forehead for a moment against the wooden statue depicting Jesus.

In another moment, he lay prostrate on the basilica floor in a sign of humility.

Solemn Holy Week ceremonies lead to the joyous celebrations of Easter Sunday, when Christians mark their belief of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

- Press Association

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