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The BBC's David Willey in Rome
"For part of the way the Pope carried a small wooden cross"
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Friday, 21 April, 2000, 22:46 GMT 23:46 UK
Pope leads Good Friday procession
The Colosseum: where early Christians were martryred
The Colosseum: Where early Christians were martryred
Pope John Paul II carried a wooden cross inside the ruins of the ancient Roman arena, the Colosseum, in a torch-lit Good Friday procession.

Soon, from this place sanctified by the blood of the first martyrs, we shall go each on our own way

The Pope
Asking God to "grant to the men and women of the third millennium the light of faith", the Pope presided at the solemn service commemorating 14 episodes from Christ's arrest, crucifixion and burial.

The Pope himself wrote the texts of the 14 meditations read by speakers - only the second time he has done so in the 22 Easters of his pontificate.

The 79-year-old Pope visited the real scenes of Christ's final hours in Jerusalem last month.


After the Colosseum service, watched by millions around the world on television, he addressed a crowd of some 50,000 believers from the Palatine Hill.

The Pope carried the cross for two stations
The Pope carried the cross for two stations
Since 1994, when he broke his leg in a fall, the Pope has not carried the light-weight cross for the entire service.

This year he carried it for two of the stations, entrusting it to seven others, including a refugee boy from Angola, for the rest of the procession.

Wearing a red cape over his white cassock and walking with a stick, the Pope looked and sounded weary during the ceremony in the Roman arena where early Christians were martyred.

Human rights

In his address the Pope said Christians could better understand the plight of those who suffer injustice, humiliation, pain and despair today if they meditated on Christ's suffering.

"Soon, from this place sanctified by the blood of the first martyrs, we shall go each on our own way. We shall return home, turning over in our minds the very same events (of Christ's passion)," he said.

"Who, if not the condemned Saviour, can fully understand the pain of those unjustly condemned.

"Who, if not the King scorned and humiliated, can meet the expectations of the countless men and women who live without hope or dignity?"

The Pope also touched on human rights concerns.

"Do not permit that we should turn away from those who are crushed by the cross of illness, loneliness, hunger or injustice," he prayed.

"Do not permit that there should be weeping for us and for the men and women of the new century."

Busy agenda

Good Friday marked the start of a hectic three-day Easter period for the Pope.

Earlier on Friday, the Pope heard the confessions of 10 ordinary Catholics chosen at random in St Peter's and presided at a long "Passion of the Lord" service in the basilica.

On Saturday night the Pope presides at an Easter Eve service.

On Easter Sunday, the most important day of the Christian liturgical calendar, he will deliver his twice-yearly "Urbi et Orbi" (To the City and the World) blessing and message to thousands of people in St Peter's Square.

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12 Dec 99 | Europe
Pope backs Colosseum campaign
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