Pope Francis will not go to the Colosseum for the traditional Good Friday Way of the Cross procession, and will watch it from his home at the Vatican due to unseasonably cold night-time temperatures in Rome, the Holy See has said.
Francis, who was recently treated in hospital for bronchitis, went ahead with an early evening prayer service at St Peter’s Basilica to mark Good Friday, which recalls the death of Jesus by crucifixion.
Wearing crimson-coloured vestments, Francis, who has a chronic knee problem, used a wheelchair to reach the central area of the basilica, where he presided over the service.
The Vatican said at the time that he would carry out the complete Holy Week schedule, including the Way of the Cross procession and Mass in St Peter’s Square on Easter Sunday.
During the Good Friday basilica ceremony, Francis listened to a long homily by the Vatican’s official preacher.
The Pope at times sounded hoarse while reading aloud and when he gave his blessing at the end of the nearly two-hour service. At one point, he stood up to kiss a figure of Jesus on a tall cross which was brought to him, then bowed his head in silent reflection.
On Holy Thursday, he presided over a nearly two-hour Mass at St Peter’s Basilica and later went to a Rome juvenile prison where he washed and dried the feet of a dozen residents in a ritual symbolising humility and recalling Jesus performing the same gesture for his 12 apostles.
While Rome has recently experienced spring-like weather during the day in Rome, temperatures have dipped to about 4C after dark.
The procession usually draws tens of thousands of pilgrims, tourists and Rome residents. Faithful take turns carrying a lightweight cross as meditations and prayers are recited.
The pontiff usually watches the procession from a rise overlooking the Colosseum, and ends the event with remarks and a blessing.
Francis is also scheduled to preside at an Easter Vigil Mass on Saturday night in the basilica.
On Sunday, he is due to be in St Peter’s Square for a mid-morning Mass. He is expected to deliver a long speech that reviews wars and other conflicts in the world, known by its Latin name, Urbi et Orbi.