Pope Francis on Friday said he was "ashamed" that younger generations would inherit a world "fractured by divisions and wars".
Speaking in Rome at the end of the traditional Good Friday Stations of the Cross procession, the pontiff said the world was "devoured by egotism in which the young, the sick, the old are marginalised".
Amid tight security, around 20,000 faithful, many holding candles, gathered around Rome's Colosseum for the religious ritual that evokes the path Jesus walked to his crucifixion.
The Italian capital has been put under tight surveillance following a week marked by a series of anti-terror arrests.
Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti warned this week of the high risk of an attack in Italy, and some 10,000 officers have been deployed to guarantee safety in Rome, in particular during the Easter celebrations presided over by the Pope this weekend culminating with the Easter day celebrations on Sunday.