The Latest: Pope presides over Way of the Cross procession

The Latest on Vatican ceremonies for Good Friday (all times local):

9:30 p.m.

Pope Francis is at Rome's Colosseum presiding over the torch-lit Way of the Cross procession re-enacting Christ's crucifixion.

Dressed in his white coat to guard against the night-time chill, Francis listened intently as the Good Friday meditations were read out at each of the 14 stations of the cross, recalling the stages of Jesus' condemnation and death.

This year, the meditations and prayers were composed by students, in keeping with Francis' dedication of 2018 to addressing the hopes and concerns of young Catholics.

The meditations explored suffering, failure, hope and conflict. The cross was carried through the Colosseum by students, as well as a Syrian family and an Iraqi nun.

Francis is expected to deliver a prayer at the end of the procession.

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5:50 p.m.

Pope Francis presided over solemn Good Friday services amid heightened security at Rome's Colosseum for the Via Crucis procession and a new communications controversy at home.

Italian police, carabinieri and soldiers were on alert, with Holy Week coinciding with a spate of arrests of suspected Islamic extremists around Italy and warnings from law enforcement about the return of foreign fighters from Iraq and Syria.

At the start of the most solemn period of the Catholic Church calendar, Francis lay prostrate in front of the altar in St. Peter's Basilica before the chant-filled Good Friday evening service got underway.

Later Friday, Francis travels to the Colosseum to preside over the Way of the Cross procession re-enacting Christ's crucifixion — the seminal event in Christianity leading to Christ's resurrection celebrated on Easter Sunday.