Pope Francis is presiding over a Good Friday procession at the Colosseum that stressed the persecution of Christians.

Francis has repeatedly lamented Christian suffering in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere. Reflecting this concern, among those chosen to take turns carrying the cross in the Way of the Cross procession in the ancient arena were faithful from Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Egypt and China. Several Italian families also carried the lightweight cross for a few steps.

Standing under a red canopy on the warm evening, Francis listened to prayers affirming the right of religious freedom. Tens of thousands of tourists, pilgrims and Romans held candles as they watched.

Good Friday recalls Jesus' death by crucifixion.

After several Holy Week ceremonies, Francis will celebrate Easter Mass in St. Peter's Square Sunday.