Benedict rested his folded hands on a red cushion near the central altar of St. Peter's Basilica as he prayed during the solemn commemoration of Jesus' death by crucifixion. Hours later, Benedict will go to Rome's Colosseum to preside over the traditional Way of the Cross procession.
The pope, who turns 75 on April 16, is not expected to carry the cross, but will deliver a speech at the end of the torch-lit nighttime procession. Tens of thousands of tourists and Romans are expected to flock to the ancient arena to hear him.
On Sunday, Benedict will preside over Easter Mass in St. Peter's Square.