1 million Christian pilgrims prepare to descend on Rome to mark the Passion and Resurrection of Christ
As Christians descend in their hundreds of thousands on Rome for the ceremonies of Holy Week and Easter, Pope Francis is preparing to visit a jail located 30 miles away to take part in the Maundy Thursday foot-washing ritual.
Last year, Pope Francis visited a refugee centre and washed and kissed the feet of Muslims who had fled the Middle East in fear of their lives.
This year, with the shadow of events in Syria, Iran and Iraq hanging over the world still, and the shocking massacre of Christians in Egypt on Palm Sunday, tourists are aware of the heightened security in the Eternal City.
At least 1 million Christian tourists are expected for the holiest week of the Christian year, culminating next Sunday in celebrations marking the Resurrection of Christ.
'We feel very safe. It's always heartbreaking to see the need for all the security,' tourists told Rome Reports. 'Everything is quite controlled. There are a lot of police, lots of military.'
And this helped them feel safe. 'Personally, I have not felt any threat of danger at any time,' said one visitor.
On Good Friday Pope Francis will lead the celebration of the Passion in Saint Peter's Basilica, beginning at 5 pm. That will be followed at 9.15 pm by the traditional Via Crucis – or Way of the Cross – at the Colosseum, after which Pope Francis meet the crowds and deliver his traditional blessing.
On Saturday will begin the Easter Vigil in Saint Peter's at 8.30pm, blessing and in a procession with the Paschal candle. And on Easter Day itself, he will preside at Mass in Saint Peter's Square before giving his 'Urbi et Orbi' blessing to the city of Rome and to the world from the central balcony of Saint Peter's Basilica.
In the blessing, he is thought likely to focus once again on the poor and homeless, the continuing tide of refugees fleeing the Middle East still, and the growing threat of escalating conflict in the region.