Pope Benedict XVI focused on the family as the pontiff presided over a Good Friday candlelit Way of the Cross procession at the Colosseum.

The Catholic clergyman, who turns 85 on 16 April, didn't carry the cross during the hour-long procession but stood before thousands of people holding candles at the traditional Via Crucis march.

The 14 meditations for the ceremony were composed by elderly Italian Danilo Zanzucchi, and his wife, who are longtime founders and leaders of the Focolare movement and the founders of the New Families movement. The Pope listened to reflections on family unity and troubles of today.

The 84 year old German pope seemed tired during services on Friday and could only manage to hold the lightweight wooden cross for a few minutes. Indeed, he has appeared weak since returning from his trip to Mexico and Cuba last month but has nevertheless taken part in Holy Week prayers.

"The experience of suffering and of the cross touches all mankind. It touches the family, too," the Pope said at the end of the procession, "At times of trouble, when our families have to face pain and adversity, let us look to Christ's cross. There we can find the courage and the strength to press on."

The pontiff also spoke on the global economic crisis, which has been a major issue for Europe, as have rising unemployment figures.

"The situation of many families is made worse by the threat of unemployment and other negative effects of the economic crisis," the Pope said in his official speech.

Thousands of tourists and pilgrims turned up at the Colosseum to pray and be a part of the rituals. Meanwhile, the Pope's next public ceremony is an Easter Vigil Mass at St Peter's Basilica on Saturday evening and he will then preside over an Easter Mass in St Peter's Square on Sunday morning.

Incidentally, following the visit to Cuba, the Communist government acceded to the pontiff's request and declared Good Friday a national holiday. It marked the first time since the 1960s that the day was recognised.

Check out photos of the Way of the Cross procession at the Colosseum