Jerusalem — Some in agony, others in ecstasy, Christians around the world marked Good Friday with prayer, processions and pleas for peace.
Thousands of pilgrims, some carrying large wooden crosses and others holding candles, wound their way through the narrow lanes of Jerusalem's Old City, retracing the route the Bible says Jesus took on the way to his crucifixion.
And in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI carried the cross at the beginning of the traditional Way of the Cross procession at the Colosseum.
He described the procession as, "a journey into pain, solitude and cruelty, into evil and death."
"But it will also be a path trod in faith, hope and love, because the tomb which is the final stop on our way will not remain sealed forever," the pope said of Easter Sunday, when Jesus is believed to have risen from the dead.
In Mexico City, meanwhile, more than 500,000 people turned out for the annual Passion play in the capital's working class Iztapalapa neighborhood. Thousands participated in the procession, many lugging heavy crosses through the streets.
Officials said it was the 164th year that the Passion play has been enacted in the neighborhood, although there are references to earlier performances in Mexico City going back to the 16th century.
In the Mexican silver-mining town of Taxco, hooded men belonging to a Catholic brotherhood slapped their backs bloody with nail-studded whips and dragged their shackled bare feet across rough cobblestone streets. Others carried thorny blackberry branches tied across their outstretched arms.
On Jerusalem's Via Dolorosa - or Way of Sorrows - visitors from the United States, India, South Korea, the Philippines, Russia and many other countries followed the traditional route of Christ's final walk, stopping at 14 stations, each marking an event that befell Jesus on the way to his death.
The final five stations are inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where tradition says Jesus was stripped, crucified and finally laid to rest before being resurrected on Easter Sunday.
In the Philippines, seven penitents in the northern village of San Pedro Cutud were nailed to crosses in an annual rite that is frowned upon by religious leaders but has become a major spectator attraction. Dozens of half-naked men hit their bloodied backs with bamboo sticks in an atonement rite.
In Paraguay, 1,000 tourists traveled to the southern town of Tanarandy where residents carried out the traditional "procession of lights" - handmade candles and lanterns lighting a two-mile path to a chapel through town, adorned by paintings depicting the passion of Jesus Christ.
In his traditional Good Friday message, Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah, head of the Roman Catholic Church in the Holy Land, appealed to politicians of all faiths to bring an end to the region's ongoing violence.
"What's happening now, in our Holy Land here, is believers in God killing each other in the name of God; Jews, Muslims, Christians," he said. "We hope, we wish, for political leaders who will have the courage to go and find the right ways for peace."