VIDEO | Ukraine war overshadows Good Friday services at the Vatican

Pope Francis presided at a Good Friday service recalling the last hours in the life of Jesus, with the shadow of the war in Ukraine looming over the most somber day in the Christian calendar.

This year, the Vatican’s decision to have both Ukrainians and Russians take part in one part of the procession drew fire from some Ukrainian Catholic leaders, who had called for it to reconsidered.

Francis, 85, walked with a limp along the main aisle of St. Peter’s Basilica at the start and end of the service, known as The Passion of the Lord.

Western Christians celebrated Good Friday one week ahead of Orthodox Christians. Most Ukrainians are Orthodox.

Francis later sat while a choir sang gospel verses recounting events from Jesus’ arrest to his burial.

The Good Friday service is one of the few events where the pope does not deliver a homily, leaving it to the preacher of the papal household, Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa.

„This year we celebrate Easter not to the joyful sound of bells, but with the noise in our ears of bombs and explosions not far from here,” Cardinal Catalamessa said, a reference to the  war in Ukraine, Reuters reported.

Paraphrasing the biblical peace call to „beat your swords into plowshares and your spears into pruning hooks,” Cantalamessa spoke of beating „missiles into factories and homes”.

On Friday night, Francis was due to preside at a candlelight „Via Crucis” (Way of the Cross) procession at Rome’s Colosseum.

On Easter Sunday, the most important day in the Christian liturgical calendar, he will say Mass in St. Peter’s Square and then deliver his twice-yearly „Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) message and blessing.

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