ROME • Pope Francis, presiding at a Good Friday service, asked God for forgiveness for scandals in the Catholic Church and for the "shame" of humanity becoming inured to daily scenes of bombed cities and drowning migrants.
The Pope presided at a traditional candlelight Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) service at Rome's Colosseum attended by some 20,000 people and protected by heavy security following recent terrorist attacks in European cities.
He sat while a large wooden cross was carried in procession, stopping 14 times to mark events in the last hours of Jesus Christ's life, from being sentenced to death to his burial.
Similar services, known as the Stations of the Cross, took place in cities around the world as Christians gathered to commemorate Jesus' death by crucifixion.
At the end of the two-hour service, the pontiff read a prayer he wrote that was woven around the themes of shame and hope.
CONTRITION FOR THE WORLD
...shame for all the scenes of devastation, destruction and drownings that have become ordinary in our lives.
POPE FRANCIS, on the "shame" of humanity becoming inured to violence and tragedy.
In what appeared to be a reference to the Church's sexual abuse scandal, he spoke of "shame for all the times that we bishops, priests, brothers and nuns scandalised and wounded your body, the Church".
The Catholic Church has been struggling for nearly two decades to put the scandal of child sexual abuse by clergy behind it.
Critics say more must be done to punish bishops who covered up abuse or were negligent in preventing it.
The Pope also spoke of the shame he said should be felt over "the daily spilling of the innocent blood of women, of children, of immigrants" and for the fate of those who are persecuted because of their race, social status or religious beliefs.
At the end of this month, he travels to Egypt, which has seen a spate of attacks by radicals on minority Coptic Christians.
He spoke of "shame for all the scenes of devastation, destruction and drownings that have become ordinary in our lives". On the day he spoke, more than 2,000 migrants trying to reach Europe were plucked from the Mediterranean in a series of dramatic rescues, and one person was found dead.
On Easter Sunday, the Pope reads his twice-annual "Urbi et Orbi" ("To the City and the World") message in St Peter's Square.