Pope Francis attended an emotional night of prayers for hot-button social issues including domestic abuse, prison overcrowding and unemployment to mark the Good Friday before Easter.
The candle-lit Way of the Cross procession ceremony was held outside the Colosseum in Rome in memory of the Christians killed for their faith.
The prayers read out at each of the 14 stops along the way were written by Italian bishop Giancarlo Bregantini, known for his outspoken condemnation of the mafia.
One of the most solemn ceremonies in Christianity, Good Friday commemorates the death of Jesus Christ before his supposed resurrection on Easter Sunday.
A particularly potent prayer recited on Friday was about the economic crisis - an issue close to Francis from his time as archbishop of Buenos Aires at the height of the economic collapse in Argentina.
"This is the cross which weighs upon the world of labour, the injustice shouldered by workers," the prayer said.
Others condemned "inhumane" prisons, asked for help for those "who fall into the abyss of drugs or alcohol" and urged people to "embrace the vulnerability of immigrants".
Good Friday is the second of four intensive days in the Christian calendar culminating in Easter Sunday.
On Thursday, Francis washed the feet of a group of disabled people in a ceremony intended to imitate a gesture of humility attributed to Jesus.
On Saturday, he will take part in an Easter vigil in St Peter's Basilica and on Sunday he will celebrate Easter mass in St Peter's Square followed by the traditional "Urbi et Orbi" blessing to Rome and to the world.