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," the priest said.
Good Friday events began with a morning service at the cavernous Holy Sepulcher, which was built on the place where tradition holds that 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 service 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, are marking holy week. Orthodox Christians, who follow the old, Julian calendar, will mark Good Friday in May.
Israel's Tourism Ministry said it expects about 150,000 visitors in Israel during Easter week and the Jewish celebration of Passover, which coincide this year.
At the Vatican, Pope Francis praised the "friendship of so many Muslim brothers" during the Good Friday procession, which was dedicated to the plight of Christians in the Middle East.
The nighttime Way of the Cross procession at Rome's Colosseum is one of the most dramatic rituals of Holy Week, with torches lighting the way as the faithful carry the cross. This year, the meditations read at each station were composed by young Lebanese. Many of the prayers called for an end to "violent fundamentalism," terrorism, and the "wars and violence which in our days devastate various countries in the Middle East."