Rome - Pope Francis was to preside over his first Good Friday after washing the feet of 12 young prisoners, updating an ancient Easter ritual as part of his efforts to bring the Catholic Church closer to the needy.
The new pontiff is due to recite the Passion of Christ - the story of the last hours of Jesus's life - in St Peter's Basilica on Friday, before leading the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) ceremony by the Colosseum, where thousands of Christians are believed to have been killed in Roman times.
Francis, whose first days as pope have set a markedly different tone from his predecessor Benedict XVI, is expected to take part in the procession and even carry the wooden cross on his shoulder part of the way.
Last year a frail Benedict, now 85, oversaw celebrations from under a canopy next to the Colosseum.
The new pope also held an unprecedented ceremony to mark Holy Thursday, washing and kissing inmates' feet at a prison in Rome - the first time a pontiff had performed the ritual in a prison, and the first time it included women and Muslims.
"Whoever is the most high up must be at the service of others," said Francis, 76, at the mass in the Casal del Marmo youth prison, a fortnight after being elected Latin America's first pope.
"I do this with all my heart because it is my duty as a priest, as a bishop. I have to be at your service."
Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said many of the participants broke down in tears at the ceremony, which was open only to Vatican media.