Italy celebrates Easter

Sat, 04/15/2006 - 11:18

Throughout Italy Good Friday was celebrated in small towns and the big metropolis with a variety of traditional processions.

Pope Benedict XVI led Catholics into Easter on Friday by carrying a cross in a traditional procession around the Colosseum in Rome. Going into his first Easter as pontiff, Benedict presided over the Via Crucis, or 'Way of the Cross' ceremony, an atmospheric evening event which always draws large crowds.

Benedict's predecessor, John Paul II, took part every year except his last, when he was too weak to attend and had to watch it on television from his Vatican apartment.

Thanks to live television links, many of the 1.1 billion Roman Catholics around the world were able to watch the torchlit ceremony which has been attended by popes since 1964.

The German pope, who turns 79 on Easter Sunday, wrote the prayers which were read out a year ago at the 14 different stages of the procession. This year they have been penned by Monsignor Angelo Comastri, Vicar General at the Vatican City, and form an attack on many aspects of contemporary culture.

The so-called meditations ponder a series of spiritual and moral questions, such as the division of the world between rich and poor and the "loss of the sense of sin". On Saturday, the pope will preside over the Easter vigil in St Peter's Basilica and on Sunday lead a mass before delivering his traditional Urbi et Orbi message and blessing.