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Iraqis, Syrians among faithful in Colosseum Good Friday procession presided over by pope

  • Pope Francis prays in front of the Colosseum at the start of the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) torchlight procession celebrated by Pope Francis on Good Friday in Rome, Friday, April 3, 2015. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

    Pope Francis prays in front of the Colosseum at the start of the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) torchlight procession celebrated by Pope Francis on Good Friday in Rome, Friday, April 3, 2015. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)  (The Associated Press)

  • A cross faces the Colosseum as a full moon rises over it before the start of the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) torchlight procession to be celebrated by Pope Francis on Good Friday in Rome, Friday, April 3, 2015. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

    A cross faces the Colosseum as a full moon rises over it before the start of the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) torchlight procession to be celebrated by Pope Francis on Good Friday in Rome, Friday, April 3, 2015. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)  (The Associated Press)

  • Nuns and faithful hold candles as they attend the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) torchlight procession celebrated by Pope Francis in front of the Colosseum on Good Friday, in Rome, Friday, April 3, 2015. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

    Nuns and faithful hold candles as they attend the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) torchlight procession celebrated by Pope Francis in front of the Colosseum on Good Friday, in Rome, Friday, April 3, 2015. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)  (The Associated Press)

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.