JERUSALEM -- Hundreds of Christians streamed through the cobblestone alleyways of Jerusalem's Old City on Friday, hoisting wooden crosses and chanting prayers to mark the crucifixion of Jesus.
Throngs of pilgrims walked a traditional Good Friday procession that retraces Jesus' steps along the Via Dolorosa, Latin for the "Way of Suffering." They followed his 14 stations, saying a prayer at each and ending at the ancient Holy Sepulcher church.
Along the route, Franciscan friars in brown robes chanted prayers in Latin and explained the different stations to crowds through a megaphone. Leonard Mary, a priest from Irondale, Ala., was dressed as Jesus wearing a crown of thorns. He was flanked by men posing as Roman soldiers and had fake blood dripping down his chest as he lugged a giant cross down the street.
"The most perfect love that was ever seen in the world was when Jesus died for us. He showed us the perfection of love," the priest said.
Good Friday events began with a morning service at the cavernous Holy Sepulcher, which was built on the place where tradition holds that Jesus was crucified, briefly entombed and resurrected. Clergy dressed in colorful robes entered through the church's large wooden doors as worshippers prayed in the church courtyard.
Roman Catholic and Protestant congregations that observe the new, Gregorian calendar, are marking holy week. Orthodox Christians, who follow the old, Julian calendar, will mark Good Friday in May.
Israel's Tourism Ministry said it expects some 150,000 visitors in Israel during Easter week and the Jewish festival of Passover, which coincide this year.
In Rome today -- Holy Saturday -- Pope Francis plans to debut on modern media platforms the Shroud of Turin, which since medieval times has been revered by many Christians as the burial cloth of Jesus.
The linen cloth imprinted with the faint brownish image of what appears to be a man's body -- and that skeptics dismiss as ancient forgery -- will be shown live on the Italian state broadcaster RAI, 40 years after its first and only televised "ostentation," as a public exposure of the shroud is known.
The pope is providing a prerecorded video message for the event, which will be broadcast from the Turin Cathedral from 5:10 to 6:40 p.m. local time and will be streamed live on RAI's website and on www.sindone.org.
In Easter services this week, Pope Francis is said to have devastated traditionalist Catholics who adored his predecessor, Benedict XVI, for restoring much of the traditional pomp to the papacy.
Pope Francis' decision to disregard church law and wash the feet of two girls -- a Serbian Muslim and an Italian Catholic -- during a Holy Thursday ritual has become something of the final straw, evidence that Francis has little or no interest in one of the key priorities of Benedict's papacy: reviving the pre-Vatican II traditions of the Catholic Church.
One of the most-read traditionalist blogs, "Rorate Caeli," reacted to the foot-washing ceremony by declaring the death of Benedict's eight-year project to correct what he considered the botched interpretations of the Second Vatican Council's modernizing reforms.
"The official end of the reform of the reform -- by example," "Rorate Caeli" lamented in its report on Francis' Holy Thursday ritual.
This year's Good Friday procession at Rome's Colosseum, which re-enacts Jesus Christ's crucifixion, was dedicated to the plight of Mideast Christians, with prayers calling for an end to "violent fundamentalism."
Pope Francis, however, chose to stress Christians' positive relations with Muslims in brief remarks the end of the ceremony. He recalled Benedict's 2012 visit to Lebanon when "we saw the beauty and the strong bond of communion joining Christians together in that land and the friendship of our Muslim brothers and sisters and so many others."