Christians around the world are marking Good Friday with re-enactments of the Crucifixion including devotees in the Philippines who really have their hands nailed to the cross. From Australia to Europe and across to the Americas, worshippers playing Jesus Christ have been led through the streets by gangs of Romans before being hoisted onto crosses.
Church services and early morning ceremonies have been held to mark one of the holiest days in the Christian calender day when Jesus was said to have been killed on the cross.
About two dozen Filipinos were nailed to crosses in an extreme display of devotion that the Catholic church looks down upon as a form of folk religion but appears powerless to stop.
The re-enactment of the passion of Jesus Christ draws thousands of tourists to the Pampanga region, 80 km (50 miles) north of the capital, to watch barefoot penitents flagellate themselves and a series of crucifixions on an artificial hill.
The practice, which took hold in the province about 60 years ago as form of religious vow by poor people seeking forgiveness, a cure for illness and the fulfilment of other wishes.
Archbishop Paciano Aniceto said the gory practice was a distortion of Christ's teachings of love and selfless service. But he conceded that the church could not stop the ritual that he described as 'popular piety'.
Another bishop said people had to understand the folk Catholicism widely practiced in the Philippines, which has the largest Christian population in Asia. About 80 percent of its 96 million people are Catholic.
'We are in no position to suppress them,' Auxiliary Bishop Pablo Virgilio David told Reuters.
'I do not think it is right to close our doors to them just because they are more attracted to these folk practices than to our Roman liturgy which they may find too foreign or cerebral.'
Devotees, insisting they were prepared to endure pain as penance, had 5-inch stainless steel nails driven into their hands. Then, for a few minutes, they were hanged on wooded crosses.
'We do this because of our faith not because we're paid,' Ruben Inaje, a house painter who has played the role of Christ for 27 years, told Reuters.
'Two years ago, I said it would be the last time I'd do it. But every time I say that, my wife gets sick. I guess God wants me to continue this sacrifice as a lifetime vow,' he said before taking up a 50 kg (110 lb) cross and heading to the crucifixion site.
A circus-like atmosphere prevailed on a sun-drenched day.
'It's my first time to witness a man being crucified,' said Charlotte Johansen, 26, a Norwegian non-government organisation worker, was taking pictures with her friends.
The village of Cutud has built the hill with three crosses for the main ceremony with crucifixions also taking place in two nearby villages.
Souvenir and food vendors staked out the hill and people selling ice-cream and sodas wandered among the crowd.
'The crucifixions here have become a purely tourism event,' said an official from the area, who handles accreditation for the flock of journalists which descends every year.
In Jerusalem's Old City Hundreds of Christians streamed through the cobblestone alleyways of hoisting wooden crosses and chanting prayers.
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, Alabama, 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,' said Mary.
Good Friday events kicked off with a Mass earlier in the morning at the cavernous Holy Sepulcher, which was built on the place where tradition holds 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.
Later Friday, a Mass was due in Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, built atop the traditional site of Jesus' birth. Christians believe Jesus was crucified on Good Friday and resurrected on Easter Sunday.
Roman Catholic and Protestant congregations that observe the new, Gregorian calendar, mark Easter week this week. Orthodox Christians, who follow the old, Julian calendar, will mark Good Friday in May.
Less than 2 percent of the population of Israel and the Palestinian territories is Christian, mostly split between Catholicism and Orthodox streams of Christianity. Christians in the West Bank wanting to attend services in Jerusalem must obtain permission from Israeli authorities.
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.