Pope Francis lies flat on altar 'to symbolise Jesus's violent death'
Pope Francis prostrated himself in prayer during a solemn Good Friday service in St Peter's Basilica yesterday.
The 80-year-old pope lay for several minutes before the central altar.
He wore crimson-coloured vestments for the day commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus.
Several times during the service, Pope Francis bowed his head in silent reflection.
Papal preacher the Reverend Raniero Cantalamessa told the faithful they were recalling the "violent death" of Jesus 2,000 years ago.
He said they marked it, even when most days bring news of violent deaths, because his crucifixion "changed forever the very face of death".
Rev Cantalamessa said the cross was the definitive "'No' of God to violence, injustice, hate, lies".
Pope Francis was due to give his own homily last night at the traditional Way of the Cross procession in the ancient Colosseum in Rome.
On Thursday, he washed the feet of a dozen inmates at a maximum security prison.
During the pre-Easter ritual meant to show his willingness to serve society's most marginal, Pope Francis urged the prisoners to help one another and similarly "be the servant of others".
Pope Francis travelled to the Paliano detention centre, south of Rome, to celebrate Maundy Thursday Mass at the only Italian prison dedicated to housing Mafia turncoats.
These "collaborators of justice" can reduce their sentences by co-operating with anti-Mafia prosecutors.
Many of the inmates are serving lengthy terms: Two of the 12 inmates who participated in the foot-washing ceremony are serving life terms. The remaining 10 are due to be released between 2019 and 2073. Pope Francis also visited two other inmates currently in solitary confinement.
In his homily, Pope Francis reminded the inmates that his gesture of washing their feet re-enacted the gesture of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples before he was crucified, essentially doing the work of a slave out of love.
"If you can do something, a service for your companions in prison, do it," he urged. "This is love. This is like washing feet: to be the servant of others."